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Cyprus

Apology ‘not enough’ for baby thrown in hospital trash, health minister says (Updated)

By Evie Andreou

Health Minister George Pamporidis said an apology was nowhere near enough to offer the parents of a baby whose body was found in the rubbish bin at the morgue of the Nicosia General Hospital on Tuesday morning.

The minister said a full investigation had been launched after the premature infant, who died two days after it was born at a private clinic in Nicosia, could not be located at in the refrigerator in the hospital morgue and was found instead in a trash bin. The gender of the infant was not revealed.

The baby, which was born prematurely at eight months on August 30 at a private hospital in Nicosia had several health problems and was transferred to the Makarios children’s hospital in Nicosia where it died two days later in September 1.

According to CyBC, medical investigations into the infant’s death began in September 11 following a request by the parents who wanted to check through a post mortem whether there were any genetic anomalies that led to the baby’s death. Reportedly the couple had also lost their first baby last year, again a few days after it was born.

The post mortem was carried out by state pathologists in the presence of a doctor who had flown in from the UK.  Afterwards when tissue sample were taken for toxicology testing, the baby’s body was placed in the morgue refrigerator, until the family was to collect it for burial on Tuesday.

But the body was found missing by a police officer who had gone to the morgue to deliver the death certificate. A morgue employee who helped him look for the newborn, found it in the bin. More police were called to the scene to investigate.

After seeing footage from surveillance cameras, police are interrogating two people, a morgue employee and a hospital messenger.

CyBC reported that the messenger told police that between 3pm on Monday and  Tuesday morning he had gone into the morgue three times to transfer bodies and that he claimed the baby was not in the refrigerator.

Reports later said a morgue employee who was on duty on Monday said he had left work at 3pm and the baby had been in the refrigerator.

Police spokesman Andreas Angelides told CyBC they had secured a written statement from a medical staffer, according to which, on Monday night another body was placed in the refrigerator where the baby was supposed to be. This evidence may help investigations as to who moved the baby, he said.

Pamporidis, said in an announcement he visited the hospital to find out first-hand what had happened.

“This is of course an obvious failure of the whole system and primarily the state has to apologise to the parents and relatives of the unfortunate infant, who in the grief of the loss of their child had to undergo more totally unnecessary grief which exacerbated their pain,” he said.  He added that he had already contacted the family. “However, since an apology is not enough, I have given instructions in cooperation with the Police to fully investigate,” he said.

“Investigations may indicate responsibilities… they may…  identify a person who acted unprofessionally and possibly illegally. However they [the responsibilities] may be more general and may be found in more than one person,” Pamboridis added.

The minister said he hoped that these “these tragic and unacceptable events were not connected with a rumoured war between staff”.

“That would be a disgrace for our culture and society. However, if it emerges that what happened during is related to these phenomena, I can assure you that we will take all measures necessary in order to remove all those who in one way or another are involved. Such behaviours, if confirmed, they have no place in public health,” he said.

He added that his ministry, in its attempt to assist investigations and after a request by the baby’s family, has recalled from London the special pathologist who conducted the post mortem last Saturday.

The ministry will monitor very closely the investigations and the operation and practices of the department in question to fully ensure the smooth operation and harmonious cooperation between staff, he added.


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