Deaths of 11 Babies in One Weekend Raise Alarm at Dominican Hospital

A cluster of infant deaths at Robert Reid Cabral Children’s Hospital has led to an investigation and the firing of the nation’s health minister and the hospital director.

One of the most important medical institutions in the Dominican Republic has recently come under fire following a cluster of infant deaths, AP reports.

In early October, 11 babies died at the Robert Reid Cabral Children’s Hospital, one of the few facilities accessible to the sick and poor living in and near the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo.

Rosa Elba Santana’s month-old twins, Rosanna and Isaac, were among the infants who died. The single, unemployed mother claims she brought them to the hospital because Rosanna had stomach pains, while Isaac appeared to have trouble breathing.

"They told me this was the place to take your children, where they have the specialists...I took them to be checked, not because it was serious,” Santana, 20, told AP. "Instead of getting better, they got worse.”

The tragic deaths have resulted in an investigation into the state-run hospital, launched at President Danilo Medina’s order. Led by the attorney general, the commission investigating the institution has determined that 10 of the infant deaths were caused by infections contracted in the hospital or “deficiencies in the quality of medical care,” AP reports.

So far, the nation’s health minister, the hospital director Rosa Nieves Paulino and others have been fired. Officials and doctors have defended the overall care patients receive at the 300-bed facility. But, they also reportedly admitted it is underfunded, understaffed and overfilled.

"The government should stop its rhetoric and begin to take care of the poorest,” Dr. Radomes Ovals told AP.

A national discussion on the overall quality of health care for the poor in the Caribbean nation has also been sparked. According to UNICEF, the country’s infant mortality rate of 27 per 1,000 births (compared to the regional average of 16 per 1,000) is a result of widespread malnutrition.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Ezequiel Abiu Lopez)

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