THE healthcare sector should take a leaf from the aviation sector's book whenever a mistake is made, such as in a botched in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) or in the wrong medication given, said Health Minister Khaw Boon want.

Instead of a witch-hunt over who's at fault, an investigation should probe for wider, deeper issues in the system, he suggested.

This approach, increasingly favoured in the American healthcare sector, allows for problems to be identified and corrected, and prevents simlar mistakes from being repeated, the minister told reporters after attending a community event in Admiralty on Saturday.

In his first public comments on an in-virtro fertilisation mix-up at Thomson Fertility Centre, after The Straits Times broke the news last Wednesday, Mr Khaw said the focus now is to determine whether it was a one-off human error or a systemic problem that resulted in another man's sperm being used to conceive a baby for a couple on IVF.

The baby was found to have the mother's DNA but not her husband's; the baby's blood type is B whereas the couple's are O and A. The child also has a different complexion from the couple, a Singaporean Chinese woman and her Caucaisan permanent resident husband.

If it is systemic, he noted, then the whole sector has to be reminded and guidelines have to be improved.

His ministry is conducting a full investigation and suspending all new treatments at Thomson Fertility Centre, until the findings are out.

Probe wider, deeper issues