THE Ministry of Health has ordered Thomson Medical Centre to immediately suspend all new assisted reproduction (AR) activities at its fertility centre, in the wake of a sperm mix-up during an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedure.

The Thomson fertility centre (TFC) has also been asked to stop admitting patients for any new AR procedures, including sperm collection and processing.

Existing patients who have started AR cycles with the centre should be informed of the incident and be given a choice on whether to continue at the centre or transfer to another centre, said a statement from the MOH. 'MOH has asked TFC to facilitate the transfer should a patient wish to do so and to give its full support and fulfil its duty of care to the patient,' it added.

The ministry has started a full investigation into the IVF incident at TFC to identify the cause of the problem.

Even as the investigation is underway, MOH said audits have revealed some shortcomings in existing processes and practices at TFC that increases the risk of mix-ups occurring. This included the handling by a single laboratory personnel of more than one specimen at a workstation in the laboratory at a given time.

'To minimise the risks of a similar event, TFC is required to stop taking on new cases until the investigations have been completed. For patients who have already started treatment, TFC should adopt MOH's additional recommended processes beyond those already issued with the AR directives,' said the statement. This includes processing only one AR related specimen (sperm, oocyte or embryo) at any one time.

The ministry also reminded all approved AR centres that they are to adhere strictly to stipulated directives, protocols and guidelines on AR procedures, including labelling, collection, transfer, storage and disposal of any specimens.

MOH suspends treatment