What? Dental instruments not thoroughly sterilised?

Buried among the truck-load of media reports about the ongoing Singapore-Malaysia disputes, one “shocking” incident caught our eyes recently.

We saw the report of eight packs of dental instruments did not undergo the final step of sterilisation at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). These instruments might have been used for outpatient treatment at the TTSH Dental Clinic. Shocking!


The media reports said that likely up to eight patients, who have received treatment at the hospital’s dental clinic between Nov 28 and Dec 5, could be among the suay ones. Ho seh liao la!

Not properly sterilised means what?

So PROPER sterilisation got 3 steps.

Step 1: Manual washing and ultrasonic machine sonication

Step 2: Instruments are air dried, packed, sealed and labelled

Step 3: Put the sealed instruments through steam sterilisation to remove bacterial spores

So the eight packs of dental instruments missed the last step.

But, and more buts…

But TTSH said that “close to 100 per cent of organisms of concern would have been eradicated” by the time the second step is completed.

But to play safe, the TTSH staff are contacting all 575 patients who had been treated at the dental clinic. Aiya, of cause need to reassure them la, even though the risk of infection is low. You know la, people will KPKB until the cows come home, if TTSH don’t inform them.

But hor, does this means that the hospital would have to bear full responsibility, if got people “strike 4D” and suay suay kena an infection or other funny complications from this?

Apparently, this incident was uncovered after a staff at the dental clinic found out that a dental instrument had not undergone the final step of steam sterilisation Maybe should promote this staff for being vigilant.


And after checking all the dental instruments the next day, they found that eight packs of the instruments processed on Nov 28 had not completed the last step of the sterilisation process. And too bad, these eight packs had already been used for treatment liao!

As a precaution, all elective procedures at the TTSH Dental Clinic have been suspended since Dec 8 to allow a “safety time-out’. The term sounded familiar hor? Machiam like “copy-cat” from MINDEF when got “people up-lorry” during training.


Not the first time already hor!

#Throwback to last year, there was a similar case at the National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS). Looks like TTSH didn’t learn from other hospital’s mistakes.

shake head

Heng got one of the staff discovered the lapse so that they could inform and find out who could possibly be affected. But what if no one realised that there was a lapse? Is it likely that there could be past incidents of such carelessness, but went unnoticed? If there was a review done during the NDCS’ case, why was it not applied across all the public hospitals?

And saying that close to 100 per cent of the organisms of concerns germs would have been killed by the time the sterilisation process reached the second step sounds a tad trivialising – like trying to smoke us sia!

They made it seem like missing the last step isn’t so bad. But are our public hospitals prepared to risk losing the precious trust patients placed in them in delivering quality and safe medical procedures?

Hopefully, a second review would really nib the problem in the bud. There have been so much assurance of the quality of services and care provided at the public hospitals for our ageing needs. But it is pointless to keep telling us to go to public hospitals, if they cannot be trusted to follow basic medical processes properly?

Don’t let this recur like how often our MRT trains break down hor! Just saying, not jinxing it.