14 babies from KK Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit diagnosed with ‘red eye’
14 babies at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) were diagnosed with conjunctivitis — or more commonly known as red eye or sore eye — between mid Oct and 1 Dec.
According to the Health Promotion Board,
Conjunctivitis (Red eye) is an inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that lines the eyeball that causes the eye to be swollen and makes small blood vessels in the eye become more prominent resulting in red eye.
Can the ICU still be called Intensive Care Unit if the care provided is not adequate?
This is the third recent healthcare saga in Singapore. In October, Singapore General Hospital revealed cases of hepatitis C. Just last week (4 Dec), National University Hospital (NUH) also came clean with their tuberculosis (TB) cases.
What caused the spread of conjunctivitis in the NICU?
According to KKH’s chairman Professor Ng Chee Keong, 12 other employees caught the virus and had to be put on medical leave.
However, the hospital was quick to shirk responsibility, instead pointing fingers at a baby’s mother.
A KKH spokesperson said that the first infected baby most probably caught the virus from its mother, and two more infants were infected two to three weeks later.
Of course, the baby’s mother is the most likely suspect spreading the virus — it couldn’t possibly have been the 12 employees.
11 more babies infected by the virus
The question is: if they knew 3 infants had caught the virus, shouldn’t they have taken preventive measures? How did 11 more babies get infected?
According to the KKH spokesperson:
Additional precautionary measures were undertaken by KKH, which included enhanced barrier protection for better efficacy against this type of virus, implementing donning of additional personal protective equipment and universal surgical masking in the neonatal unit.
Professor Ng added that it was highly possible that the infants had caught the virus earlier on. According to the hospital, these 11 babies were exposed to the three infected babies before entering the NICU.
In this case, conjunctivitis is spread due to exposure to someone with the viral or bacterial form of conjunctivitis. This also means that even if the baby’s mother was the original carrier, the 12 medical staff in the NICU were likely transmitters of the virus.
Seems like this obvious fact was purposely left out.
The NICU is currently closed. However, KKH claims it is not due to the cases of conjunctivitis, but due to the unit reaching maximum capacity.
Problems with our healthcare sector
This case of conjunctivitis seems like another case of negligence. With the recent healthcare fiasco, Singapore’s health sector should take heed to restore Singaporeans’ faith in our national healthcare.
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