Two doctors and two nurses at a hospital in Foshan, Guangdong, have been suspended for mistakenly pronouncing a premature baby dead and disposing of it in a toilet late last month.
The baby was found alive by family members about 20 minutes after its birth when they demanded to see the body, a press conference was told on Thursday.
They found that the baby was also a boy, not a girl as the nurses had said. The newborn was later rushed to intensive care and remains in a stable condition at the hospital.
Liu Dongmei, who was 32-weeks' pregnant, was sent to the Nanhai Red Cross Hospital on October 23 after suffering internal bleeding and stomach aches.
The two nurses delivered her premature baby three days later and diagnosed a stillbirth after finding the baby was neither breathing nor crying and had a purple body, officials from the health and family planning bureau in Foshan's Nanhai district said at the press conference. Liu told the Guangzhou Daily that the nurses did not give the baby a thorough check-up. They put him in a yellow plastic bag and left him in a toilet just a few minutes after he was born, she said.
After being told the baby was born dead, Liu's husband, who had been waiting outside the ward, called his sister for help. 'The plastic bag was lying in the corner of the toilet. There was a knot on top of it. When it was opened, the baby was foaming at the mouth, and its hands and stomach were moving,' his sister told the newspaper.
What's more, the baby was a boy, not a girl as the nurses had said twice previously. Baby boys are more cherished than girls by many parents because they want to have a male heir.
'How did the nurses confirm my child was dead? I didn't see them using any equipment. Were they using their experience or just perception?' Liu's husband was quoted as saying.
Pan Yongtong, the bureau's executive deputy director, said that an investigation was continuing following a preliminary finding that the nurses had failed to follow proper medical procedures.
The two doctors who were suspended were the director of the hospital's gynaecology and obstetrics department and the doctor on duty on the night Liu gave birth.
According to medical rules the doctor on duty was supposed to deliver the baby instead of the nurses.
The family asked to transfer the baby to another hospital and demanded compensation of 300,000 yuan (HK$360,000).
Pan said the bureau would require the hospital to co-operate in the transfer and pay for all the medical expenses. However, he said compensation would not be decided until after the investigation panel finished its inquiries.
He told reporters that according to normal procedures, the baby would have been sent to a funeral home for cremation if he had not been found alive in time.
Besides irresponsibility and poor medical skills, Pan said a lack of medical ethics was another factor contributing to the mistake.