My greatest healthcare nightmare occurred when I read the tragic news of how eights patients died at the infamous renal ward 67 in SGH due to a hepatitis C-related incident.

Four were confirmed to die directly from the disease, three were not related and one is still undecided.

Twenty-two patients were also found to contract the infectious disease which happened sometimes in May this year.

Of the 22 infected, the youngest is 24 years old, and the remaining are between 50 and 60 years old.

SGH said that their initial investigation indicated that the source of infection might be due to “intravenous (IV) injectable agents” or multi-dose vials which typically contain insulin or vaccines (source: Channel News Asia 6 Oct).

I will leave the medical investigation to the expert but this is worrying news as this is the first time that a infectious disease cluster is found in our public hospital.

SGH is also one of the preferred public hospital of many Singaporeans as it is well upgraded and not as crowded as Changi General Hospital or National University Hospital.

Many people I know avoided CGH due to personal reasons and even transfer their loved ones to SGH if they have the opportunity.

However, CGH has a new hospital wing now and it looks professional and less crowded. The old wing remains me of a war-torn hospital whereby one may need to wait at a standby area for available bed before he can be admitted.

My mum was in and out of CGH for several times due to a fall and we need to grind our teeth in patience as over-worked nurses went about their duties.

There are times we have to wait patiently for the nurse to change or feed her as she is incapable of doing that herself.

Sometimes if I am there, I simply took up the job myself as the wait could take half an hour or more. I shuddered to wonder how long my mum would have to wait for the nurse to feed her if I am not there myself.

There is clearly a shortage of nurses working in the ward and sometimes I empathsize with them as often a small team of overworked 5-6 nurses need to man a ward of well over 20 patients all screaming out for attention.

I also detected that most of the nurses are either from Philippines or PRC China with a scattered few from our own country.

They communicated in basic English but I am sure its not entirely clear and often the Filipino nurses will talk in Tagalog among themselves sometimes shouting across the ward.

As for the tragic incident at SGH, my heart goes out to their loved ones.

I am sure and hope some heads will roll so that the healthcare profession can take the rap responsibly.

If there is a human error of misjudgement, the whole team need to apologise and resign amass to atone for their mistake.

Don’t take it out on one or two junior staff to appease the loved ones and the general population – like what happened with the Mas Selamat great escape folly.

Do a thorough systemic investigation so that the incident won’t happen again.

We are also guilty of a lack of 20/20 vision by allowing in too many foreigners who clog up our transport, housing, education, employment and healthcare services.

I am sure the hep C-related incident is just one of the many consequences of such poor infrastructure planning.

Too many foreigners working on our work permit passes have brought along their wives, children, parents and parents-in-law. Sometimes, their brothers and sisters are also part of the large entourage on long-term stay.

Though the authorities have recently increase the salary scale of those talents who can bring their loved ones over, our small island can probably only hold close to 6 million max.

It is widely believed that we have already breach that limit especially with a daily tourist influx of well over 10,000 who tend to stay on an average of 5 to 6 days.

20,000 permanent residency approvals were handed out yearly for the past ten years and right now we have close to 1.7 million foreigners living and working among us right from the top echelon CEOs who earn millions to the bottom-end construction workers who earn $3 an hour.

Trains have broken down frequently over the past few years due to the population influx and now we have encountered a big fatal healthcare risk.

Yes economies are important but if we can’t properly cope with the huge sudden influx of people, we are toying with fire.

Most of them will have basic healthcare needs, their children need childcare and educational facilities, their own parents need healthcare facilities and most of them will travel by public transport unless they have their own vehicle.

The government should take the cue from this tragedy and stop immediately all incoming foreigners so that they can put their own house in order first.

If not, the government may lose its overwhelming mandate at the next polls.

Gilbert Goh

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