16 disciplined after SGH hepatitis C outbreak

SINGAPORE - Sixteen people have been disciplined in Singapore for a hepatitis C outbreak in the city-state's largest hospital last year that left at least seven patients dead, officials said Thursday.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement four of its staff holding director-level roles were given warnings and financial penalties for failing to step in early to prevent the disease from spreading. It did not say how much the penalties were.

The state-run Singapore General Hospital (SGH) where the outbreak took place said separately it had disciplined 12 senior staff, including those in senior management. Its punishments were similar to those meted out by the ministry.

Last October, the SGH revealed that it had been hit by an outbreak of hepatitis C, a disease usually spread through unsafe injection practices, poor sterilisation of medical equipment and unscreened blood transfusions, according to the WHO.

Between March and August last year, the disease affected 25 patients who had kidney problems and were seeking treatment in the hospital. Eight of the patients died, with seven of the deaths linked to hepatitis C.

A committee that investigated the outbreak found poor infection controls and lapses in the hospital's infection reporting protocol.

Singapore prides itself on a modern healthcare system rated among the best in Asia that has attracted patients from around the world. Government hospitals are well-funded unlike in many other countries in the region.