Chinese hospital officials sacked after five newborn babies died from contracting a virus

Two hospital officials in south-east China have been fired following the deaths of five newborn babies.

The infants died at the Shunde Hospital of Southern Medical University in Foshan, Guangdong province after contracting an infection caused by an intestinal virus. 

Another 13 were released from the hospital after recovering while one remained under treatment and was in stable condition, according to the Guangdong Health Commission in a statement on Saturday.

The tragic incident, which prompted an official investigation at the end of April, was a result of poor infection prevention and control, according to the authority. 

All five babies had conditions such as pneumonia before contracting the deadly Echovirus 11, according to South China Morning Post. 

Echovirus typically affects children, as their immune systems are immature. 

Most patients show minor symptoms and recover on their own, but some will develop more serious symptoms, the report said.

Transmission takes place mainly through faeces-to-mouth or by saliva, the Guangdong authority said, adding that no cases had been reported since the start of its investigation. 

The incident first came to light on April 23 after a man named Wu Changqi published an article on social media platform WeChat saying that at least three infants – including his own baby – died after contracting a bacteria or virus in hospital sometime between the end of March and the start of April.

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

His baby, whose gender was not revealed, was born prematurely on April 6 and was infected between April 7 and 10, citing a suspected cross-infection in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.  

On April 11, his infant’s condition deteriorated and was transferred to Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital in Guangzhou. The child was found to be infected with an intestinal virus and died on April 20.

The post quickly went viral, prompting the health authority to launch an investigation.

The health commission said the deaths resulted from the hospital’s lax management including unsound mechanism for infection prevention and control, absence of monitoring of infected patients at the neonatal department and a failure to report infections as required.

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

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


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