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Covid-19: Authorities investigating possible first case of transmission within hospital

SINGAPORE — The authorities are investigating whether measures to protect patient safety at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) have fallen short, for they suspect that one patient might have contracted the coronavirus that cause Covid-19 from another in the same ward.

Two patients were placed in the same acute respiratory isolation ward at the Singapore General Hospital, where beds were almost 3m apart from each other, from Feb 29 to March 1.

Two patients were placed in the same acute respiratory isolation ward at the Singapore General Hospital, where beds were almost 3m apart from each other, from Feb 29 to March 1.

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SINGAPORE — The authorities are investigating whether measures to protect patient safety at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) have fallen short, for they suspect that one patient might have contracted the coronavirus that cause Covid-19 from another in the same ward.

If their suspicion is confirmed, it would be the first case of Covid-19 transmission within a hospital.

The two patients are Case 109, a 70-year-old Singaporean man who works at Fish Mart Sakuraya restaurant in West Coast Plaza, and Case 126, a 77-year-old Singaporean man

Both patients have no recent travel history to affected countries and regions.

They were placed in the same acute respiratory isolation ward at SGH, where beds were almost 3m apart from each other, from Feb 29 to March 1.

This was a special ward that is different from wards used to treat Covid-19 patients, for patients who do not meet the case definitions for coronavirus infection but suffer from respiratory tract infections.

The restaurant worker was confirmed with Covid-19 infection on March 2, while the other man's infection was confirmed on March 5. After these two patients were found to have Covid-19, a third patient in the ward is still well, with no symptoms.

Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, director of medical services at the Ministry of Health (MOH), said: “There is a suspicion that the two cases are linked, and it may have been linked with a spread of infection possibly from one case to another. We still have to confirm this and prove this.”

Speaking at a press conference called on Friday night, he pointed out that SGH had taken measures to protect the safety of its patients, such as by trying to separate patients to reduce the risk of infection occurring among the patients themselves.

Acute respiratory isolation wards at SGH were usually five-bedded, but two were removed so that the beds were further apart. 

Associate Professor Tan Thuan Tong, SGH’s head of infectious diseases, told reporters at the media briefing that patients admitted to these wards were told upfront that as much as they can, they should not mingle or walk around interacting with each other.

Assoc Prof Mak said: “So as part of investigations, we are working closely with the hospital to determine if any of its measures had fallen short; whether or not they had any situations where despite the best of their efforts, there might have even been some close contact among these patients.”

However, he believes that it is still safe for patients with respiratory symptoms to be placed in the same ward.

“The Singapore General Hospital has assured us that it continues to be vigilant about separating the patients, isolating the patients, and testing those that have suspicious features that may suggest the presence of Covid-19 infection,” Assoc Prof Mak said.

“And it has assured us that they are taking every measure possible to ensure that there is no further risks of spread to other patients at the hospital.”

Related topics

SGH Covid-19 coronavirus MOH coronavirus transmission hospital

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