A healthcare worker whose relative is among those infected with hepatitis C in a viral outbreak at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has spoken about her family’s distress at the turn of events.
The patient, who is in her late 50s, is one of two affected persons still warded at SGH, the woman, who declined to be named, told TODAY over the telephone last night (Oct 7).
Suffering from renal failure over the past 15 years, the patient first went to the hospital in June after she felt unwell. It was only after multiple tests — no symptoms showed up in the initial screenings — that she was diagnosed with hepatitis C and was warded at SGH in July, said the healthcare worker.
On Tuesday, it was made public that the outbreak, possibly caused by a lapse in the use of multi-dose medication vials, has affected 22 patients since April 17. The 22nd case was detected on Sept 18. So far, four out of eight deaths among these patients are believed to be linked to the virus outbreak.
The healthcare worker said the patient’s condition has gotten worse. She suffered from a loss of appetite, bed sores, nausea, and has been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit several times.
The patient’s main carers are her husband and domestic worker, who have had to go through the “suffering of seeing a loved one’s blood being taken many times and go through numerous courses of medication”. They have kept the news of the viral outbreak from her.
The family had contemplated stopping the treatment because of the high costs. Each dose of medication can cost up to S$3,000 and the family had incurred about S$80,000 to S$90,000 in hospital bills over the last two months.
“There isn’t much improvement, we are neither here nor there, and right now, the patient herself is quite depressed … the whole treatment process has really dragged her down. Most of the time, she is telling us to just let her go, don’t want all this suffering,” said the healthcare worker.
SGH has informed the patient’s spouse that they will be footing the medical bill. “I think they have tried their best … We do appreciate the goodwill from the hospital, that they realise this mistake and are willing to bear the costs even before investigations have concluded. This is a relief for the family.”
The patient has been through one renal transplant “several years ago” but had to revert to dialysis because of side effects. “Renal patients have been through a lot in their lives. To them, these organs are very precious … but right now another of her organs, her liver, has failed,” the healthcare worker said.
“Because of this possible lapse, the patient has to suffer, be it the treatment process, the side effects of antibiotics. The patient really has low willpower to live on. Even if the treatment goes well, what will be the home care needed for the patient. I think that is more worrying.”