Tunisia begins investigating deaths of 11 newborns at maternity hospital

The infants died suddenly at the state maternity hospital in Tunis
This picture taken on March 9, 2019 shows the entrance of the Wassila Bourguiba state maternity hospital in the Tunisian capital Tunis, at which 11 newborn babies died suddenly in its Rabta clinic, prompting a government probe into the incident. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP)

Tunisian authorities on Saturday launched multiple investigations into the sudden deaths of 11 newborn babies at a state maternity hospital in the capital.

The health ministry was conducting medical and hygiene checks and probing the management of the hospital pharmacy after the babies died Thursday and Friday at the Rabta clinic, a spokesman told AFP.

Prosecutors said they had opened a judicial inquiry into the deaths.

The Tunisian pediatrics society wrote in a Facebook statement that “elements of the ongoing investigation” pointed to an infection caused by an intravenous feeding product.

The association called on the authorities to “shed light” on the situation and recalled the “precarious conditions in which health professionals work”.

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The health ministry said in a statement that “preventive measures and treatment have been taken to avoid other victims and to ensure the health status of other babies in the maternity ward”.

The independent Tunisian Forum of Economic and Social Rights called on the health minister to resign over the deaths.

The public health system, once a source of pride in Tunisia, has been hit by management and financial problems that lowered standards and caused drug shortages.

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