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Standard Procedure for Patients to Get Access to Original Attending Surgeon at Public Hospitals


Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Dr Lim Wee Kiak
MP for Sembawang GRC 

Question No. 836

To ask the Minister for Health with regard to the recent incident on a catheter insertion surgery in SGH that was done on a different side from that previously agreed with the patient (a) what is the standard procedure for a patient to get access to the original attending surgeon; (b) why is the patient’s request not followed up on and with no pre-surgery or post-surgery explanation given to her; and (c) why is there a lapse in communication for such a critical procedure.


1       SGH has conducted an internal review on the incident and has apologised to the patient.  

2       Preliminary investigations by SGH revealed that the patient’s preference for the placement of the catheter on the right side of the abdomen had been discussed with the original surgeon but it was not made known to the surgeon who took over the procedure, due to a lapse in the communication process.  On the day of the surgery, the original surgeon was unavailable as surgery for a preceding case of his was unexpectedly prolonged.  Another surgeon then performed the procedure so that the patient would not have her surgery delayed further.  This resulted in the catheter being placed on the left side of the abdomen which is routinely done.

3        When a patient requests to see the attending doctor, the attending doctor will attend to the patient as soon as he is available.   However, if a particular doctor is unavailable, a member of his medical team will attend to the patient on his behalf as part of team-based care.  In this case, the patient was seen daily by the surgical team and subsequently by the consultant-in-charge at the outpatient clinic.  SGH acknowledged that the patient’s request to see the surgeon who performed the procedure for her during her inpatient stay was not conveyed to the surgeon and had issued an official letter of apology to the patient.  The original surgeon had also met the patient and explained the situation to her.  SGH has also reassured the patient that as the position of the catheter inside the abdomen remains the same, the siting of the exit site will not affect the proper functioning of the access tube. SGH will continue to engage the patient.
4 SGH regrets that this incident has occurred and that steps are being taken to improve communications and hand-over procedures between doctors to improve patient care. SGH will also be implementing pre-operative site marking for this procedure moving forward. Doctors have been instructed to document and communicate the concerns and the associated risks to the patient, as well as communicate specific instructions to the covering surgeon. 

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