Chinese hospital officials sacked over poor infection control after five baby deaths are linked to Echovirus

Alice Yan
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Chinese hospital officials sacked over poor infection control after five baby deaths are linked to Echovirus

Chinese hospital officials sacked over poor infection control after five baby deaths are linked to Echovirus

A hospital chief and a senior official of a health authority in Guangdong province have been sacked over the deaths of five newborn babies.

Guangdong Health Commission said on Saturday the deaths at the Shunde Hospital of Southern Medical University in Foshan were a result of poor infection prevention and control.

The babies died after contracting an infection caused by Echovirus 11, a type of intestinal virus. All five had conditions such as pneumonia before contracting the virus. Another 13 were released from the hospital after their recovery, while one was undergoing treatment and was reported to be in a stable condition.

No more cases had been reported since the authority started its investigation at the end of April, it said.

Echovirus typically affects children, as their immune systems have not matured. Most patients show minor symptoms and recover on their own, but some will develop more serious symptoms.

Transmission takes place mainly through faeces-to-mouth or by saliva, the Guangdong authority said.

“Investigations showed this is a serious medical accident caused by lax hospital management and a raft of malpractices including unsound hospital infection rules, infection regulations not implemented, a lack of infection supervision in its neonatal wards and not reporting infection cases as required,” it said.

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Liu Ruilin, president and party secretary of the Shunde hospital, was dismissed from his position, the authority said. A vice-director of Shunde District Health Bureau was also sacked.

At the end of last month, a man named Wu Changqi wrote an article on mobile social media platform WeChat in which he claimed at least three infants – one of them his child – died after contracting a bacteria or virus in hospital sometime between the end of March and the start of April.

The father said the three babies either died in the Shunde hospital or in hospitals in Guangzhou where they were transferred for treatment.

Other infants were moved to other hospitals after being infected and as their conditions dictated, Wu wrote.

His baby, whose gender was not revealed, was born prematurely on April 6 and was put under observation in the neonatal department’s intensive care unit.

The next day, Wu said, doctors told him the baby had contracted pneumonia but said “it was not a big deal”. On April 11, Wu was told that his baby’s condition suddenly deteriorated, with serious pneumonia and intestinal problems, and had to be transferred to another hospital.

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At Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital in Guangzhou, physical examinations of Wu’s baby found its illness was caused by an intestinal virus. The baby died on April 20.

Wu’s article and the public interest it generated prompted the health authority of Foshan to open an investigation.

Guangdong health authority also told the Shunde hospital to close wards temporarily and set a deadline for improving infection control.

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