Doctors and nurse arrested over Ewha baby deaths

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Doctors and nurse arrested over Ewha baby deaths

Two doctors and a head nurse at Ewha Womans University Hospital were arrested Wednesday over the deaths of four newborns at the hospital’s intensive care unit in December.

The Seoul Western District Court said it was worried the suspects would destroy evidence, so it issued arrest warrants.

Four premature infants, ranging in age from just a few days to a little over a month, died at the newborn intensive care unit at the Ewha hospital in Yangcheon District, western Seoul, on the night of Dec. 16. All four suffered cardiac arrests, and they died within a two-hour span.

The National Forensic Service’s autopsy tests found Citrobacter freundii bacteria in the blood of the infants. The same bacteria was found in the nutrition that was IV injected into the babies’ veins, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A blood infection by the bacteria can be fatal, especially among newborns.

All the infants were on total parenteral nutrition (TPN), which meant doctors and nurses fed them by injecting fluids into their veins. TPN fluids are mixed by medical staff based on the patient’s nutritional needs.

Those arrested were Cho Su-jin, a 45-year-old doctor who was in charge of the newborn intensive care unit at the hospital at the time of the incident; a 54-year-old doctor surnamed Park who was formerly in charge of the unit; and a 41-year-old head nurse.

The prosecution requested Friday that the court also issue an arrest warrant for a 28-year-old nurse for violating sanitary regulations at the hospital.

The court did not issue a warrant for the nurse, saying it has no concern that the nurse will evade authorities or destroy evidence.

The Korean Intern Resident Association protested their arrest on Wednesday.

“The medical professionals can only take responsibility for what they are responsible for,” the group said in its statement. “They do not have the authority to change the practices and policies set out by the director of infection prevention.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG, HAN YOUNG-HYE [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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