Four newborn babies die in two hours at South Korean hospital; investigation underway
Infants weren’t breathing normally and had swollen abdomens
By Ko Dong-hwan
The deaths of four newborn infants on Saturday night have triggered a police investigation at Ewha Womans University Medical Centre in South Korea. The Seoul hospital was questioned months ago about a controversial “insect fluid” given to a baby.
Four pre-term infants in incubators in the neonatal intensive care unit at the major hospital in Yangcheon-gu died between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. local time. Before their deaths, medical staff noticed the infants were not breathing normally and that their abdomens were disproportionately swollen. Staff performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but failed to save their lives.
Hospital officials told Yangcheon police that the deaths “do not seem to have originated from a contagious cause.” Investigators from Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and officials from National Forensic Service searched the hospital on Sunday. The forensic service plans to perform autopsies.
The hospital said “four infants encountering a cardiac arrest almost at the same time is rare.” They said the infants died one by one while receiving the emergency treatment between 9:31 p.m. and 10.53 p.m.
Records show that the hospital remains questionable regarding the four infants and other toddler patients it had attended to. A family member had visited the hospital on Saturday afternoon and noted that the baby had a swollen abdomen. When the abnormality was reported hospital staff allegedly defined the symptom as “negligible.” The family member then left for the day.
Hours after this, the hospital phoned to say the infant was receiving emergency treatment. By the time the family member returned to the hospital, the baby had died.
The four dead infants were among 16 newborns in the intensive care unit. Immediately after the deaths, seven of them were moved to a different hospital while three were discharged. Two with their family members absent remained in the hospital.
Earlier, the hospital had operated on two other pre-term infants suffering from potentially fatal necrotising enterocolitis.
In September a flying insect was found inside an intravenous solution being given to a five month-old baby for more than 14 hours. Hospital officials said the bug must have gotten inside the device when an empty fluid bag was replaced.