Angry Doctor

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A tangled web

'Oh what a tangled web we weave...'


CGH first to offer opt-out HIV testing
TAN HUI LENG

ON MONDAY, Changi General Hospital (CGH) will become the first hospital here to offer opt-out HIV testing for inpatients 21 years and above. Patients can decline to be tested.

They can indicate their preference in a general consent form for medical treatment, given to them on admission. Those who agree to the blood test will pay between $6 and $23, depending on the ward class.

The result will be ready after three hours, and will be kept strictly confidential.

"If the HIV test is positive, we will provide the patient with care and treatment at the hospital and refer them for appropriate follow-up after discharge," said the hospital's CEO, Mr T K Udairam.

Treatment for conditions such as diarrhoea and pneumonia will differ for HIV patients because the causes are different.

Patients with HIV can also be put on antiretroviral drugs — which can prolong life and improve its quality — without unnecessary delay.

The results of the HIV test will be revealed to only the patient, the doctors, and — if it is positive — the Health Ministry, which the hospital is required to notify by law.

It will not be released to third parties such as employers or insurers.

Other hospitals are also considering voluntary opt-out HIV testing for inpatients.

The Singapore General Hospital says it will introduce the testing for all inpatients early next year, while KK Women's and Children's Hospital will do so next month for the few adult male patients warded there, according to 938Live.

A spokesperson for the National Healthcare Group, which comprises Tan Tock Seng, Alexandra Hospital and National University Hospital, said there are no plans for opt-out HIV testing at this juncture.

The move to test patients come amid rising number of cases. Up until October this year, a total of 356 new HIV cases were reported, just one fewer than the number for the whole of last year.

The idea for opt-out HIV testing was first mooted by Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan in August.


It's interesting how the rationale behind the introduction of the opt-out HIV test seems to have changed from protecting healthcare workers and babies to helping patients, isn't it?

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