ST reported that there was an outbreak of Hepatitis C in SGH in one of its renal wards, which led to 22 patients being infected with the virus. Of the 22, four have died. According to the report, SGH noticed as early as June that there was an increased frequency of Hep C infections in the ward.
It is a truly unfortunate incident. And all our thoughts and prayers must go out to the families of all those affected. One can only imagine the anguish, suffering, and grief that those affected and their families have had to endure. Particularly the families of those who passed away.
But we also need to have some answers.
That we need to find out the cause of this outbreak is a given. That we need to learn from this incident so that we can prevent it from ever happening again is a given. But beyond that, this incident also begs the question that if SGH had noticed the increased in frequency as early as June, then why was it only reported now? Why was it not reported any earlier?
According to the press release by MOH, SGH had begun its internal investigations in early June and made an initial presentation to MOH by end of August. Yet, none of this was made known to the public until today, about three months after SGH first noticed the problem. Did the government force a news embargo on this incident until now? Why? Was it not important to let the public know that there are potential problems in SGH? Or were there good reasons for SGH and MOH to keep this under wraps until now?
Perhaps it was necessary to wait until the final report to be submitted to MOH before informing the public about this incident. But why? None of the mainstream media had any thing in the news about what was said in the initial presentation or in the final report. So was there really a need to wait until the final report to be submitted before allowing the news of this incident to break?
Or perhaps the government found it untimely to make any announcements any earlier? And what could the reason be for that? Was it because the government was worried that such news would affect a certain party’s performance at the General Elections held in mid-September?
SGH and MOH needs to clarify why it took so long to release news of this information. And the reasons need to be convincing. Otherwise, it will not quell speculations that the news of this incident was deliberately embargoed to serve the political needs of a certain party.
But if there are no good reasons for the news embargo, then we need to be really worried. It would be prime example of the problem of a single super-dominant party being in power. It can wield its power to cover up problems so that it can continue to rule. It can force the media to do its will and not report news that is important to the people in a timely fashion if doing so is detrimental to its own chances of continuing to be in power.
I hope that SGH, MOH and the mainstream media will give us all a convincing explanation why it took so many months before this incident was reported in the news.
[Featured image from Wikipedia]