The National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) has been exposed for covering up a lapse involving unsterilised instruments after two patients told state media TodayOnline that they were instructed to go for free blood tests by the government hospital.
NDCS admitted to the lapse and prepared a press release only after being confronted by media reporters. According to NDCS’s press release, surgery instruments used on two days were found to be “incompletely sterilised”:
“The instruments – such as probes, mirrors and orthodontic pliers – had gone through machine washing and thermal disinfection, but had not completed the final step of steam sterilisation before they were used for dental treatment on levels 2, 4 and 6 on June 5 and 6 at its Specialist Outpatient Clinics.”
714 patients who received dental treatment on the two days were affected. NDCS also tried to play down the seriousness of the lapse and said that the infection rate is “extremely low”:
“The risk of infection to them is extremely low given that the first two steps of the sterilisation process remove and in-activate close to 100 per cent of organisms that can cause infection, including viruses.”
NDCS also omitted to disclose the related infection from the use of the unsterilised equipment.
NDCS director Poon Choy Yoke said: “We deeply regret this incident and sincerely apologise to our patients for the lapse and any anxiety caused. We have taken immediate steps to strengthen our processes and ensure the safety of all patients in our care.”
No individual was singled out for responsibility and there is also no explanation how the lapse happened.
Like Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong is avoiding media comments on the incident.