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Ewha hospital broke rules for 25 years: Police

Apr 07,2018
Ewha Womans University Medical Center in western Seoul, where four newborns died last December, has rampantly breached anti-infection guidelines for more than 25 years, police announced Friday.

Upon wrapping up their months-long investigation into the fatal case, where four premature infants died in a two-hour span on the night of Dec. 16, Seoul police said they were planning to refer four doctors and three nurses from Ewha hospital to the prosecutors’ office next Tuesday on charges of negligent homicide.

The hospital allegedly disobeyed guidelines from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in the process of administering SMOFlipid injections to the babies, a source of calories when oral nutrition is not possible.

According to domestic safety rules, Ewha hospital was supposed to use 10 to 20 milliliters of the substance for each infant and discard the remaining 500-milliliter bottle in order to prevent a risk of infection.

But according to police, the hospital used one bottle to make seven injections to five babies, four of whom eventually died.

Police concluded that the hospital has relied on the scheme since it opened in 1993, lying to local health authorities that they used one bottle for each newborn.

This deception allowed the hospital to turn a profit as the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service covers the cost of each bottle even if the leftover is discarded.

“If the hospital followed the rule and used one 500-milliliter bottle for each infant,” said a Seoul police officer who investigated the case, “the four newborns would definitely not have died all at once.”

Police said Ewha hospital was also supposed to administer the injection as soon as they opened the bottle, but instead prepared seven injections several hours before they were needed and stored them at room temperature, likely polluting the substance and leading to the fatalities.

An earlier autopsy by the National Forensic Service found Citrobacter freundii bacteria in the blood of the infants.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Friday that authorities will likely decide by the end of this month whether to strip Ewha hospital of its designation as a tertiary referral center, a token of highly specialized staff and sophisticated equipment for serious illnesses.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, OH WON-SEOK [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]