'Difficult period' ahead, but nurses urged to stay strong

Dr Tracy Ayre.

Nurses have been urged to "stay united and strong" in the wake of the recent hepatitis C outbreak at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

In a Facebook note yesterday, the Health Ministry's chief nursing officer, Ms Tan Soh Chin, also urged her colleagues to take a look at infection control practices in their institutions and stressed the importance of sticking to them.

"I would like to encourage all of you to stay positive and be open to acknowledge there are areas for improvement," she wrote in the note, which was shared by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

She also stressed the importance of "patient safety and strict adherence to infection control protocols and measures".

On Tuesday, the independent review committee charged with investigating the outbreak released its report, which found that poor infection control was the main reason for the infections.

Twenty-five kidney patients who stayed in Wards 64A or 67 between January and September this year came down with the virus, eight of whom died.

Ms Tan also wrote that SGH chief nurse Tracy Carol Ayre and her team "have been working tirelessly to strengthen and tighten the infection control practices and standards for many months".

"In the next few days and weeks, it will be a very tough and difficult period for nursing and especially chief nurse Tracy and her team in SGH."

"We are confident that chief nurse Tracy and team will regain and restore the trust and confidence of their patients and families," she added.

Netizens who commented on the post were generally encouraging, with several calling for more stringent checks on the healthcare system and staff's adherence to standard operating procedures.

"This is a very unfortunate event," wrote one. "The independent review committee has found lapses, hope the healthcare professionals can quickly put in place remedies."

Infectious disease expert Leong Hoe Nam of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital noted that the SGH renal department is one of the most established in Singapore, and that many of its staff have worked there for several years.

"They are certainly not short of experience," he said. The hepatitis C incident, he added, "is a reminder to everyone - not just SGH - that we need to be vigilant in all infection control".

This article was first published on December 10, 2015.
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