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In a Press Conference held early this week, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III stated that the factors which affected the seven neonatal sepsis deaths at the Rizal Medical Center (RMC) “strongly point to some degree of negligence”. He added that early onset newborn sepsis which resulted to the infants’ deaths “could not have been hospital acquired, the infection was really from the mothers.”

According to the joint medical team assigned to investigate the RMC neonatal sepsis case, the infants’ deaths were an “outbreak of highly fatal early onset newborn sepsis.’ He added that “mother-to-child transmission had occurred even before delivery.”

“Some ‘Degree of Negligence’ is not even an adequate description of what transpired in the delivery room of Rizal Medical Center (RMC) on the day of Oct. 4 , 2006. We are outraged by the attempts of the Department of Health to minimize the gravity of the neonatal sepsis deaths at the RMC.” Medical Action Group (MAG) Executive Director, Edeliza Hernandez said.

Hernandez added that although it is possible that the disease was incurred during the pre-natal stage of pregnancy, The question posed should not be who is the culprit behind the deaths, but rather are the Department of Health and Rizal Medical center , adequately equipped with the knowledge and facilities to prevent, treat and contain the disease?

MAG also criticized the DOH for the apparent inadequacy in dealing with government and private hospital’s issues particularly in the RMC case saying, “As a health authority, DOH has the obligation and responsibility to regulate and monitor hospital standards. Why did DOH chose to keep silent when records showed that as early as last year, RMC’s cases of neonatal disease were alarmingly increasing?”

From January to October 2006 alone, data showed that 69 babies died at the Rizal Medical Center while 47 infants perished in the previous year. RMC’s cases of infants acquiring neonatal sepsis increased from 83 babies to 127 this year as based on the findings of the DOH joint medical team.

“The DOH executive committee’s consideration to extend the leave of absence or merely transfer the RMC officials to another institution will not resolve the issue. This move will merely serve as an evidence of DOH’s failure to penalize and impose sanctions to hospitals violating the patient’s rights to adequate health service. The Department should prioritize the indemnification of the victims’ families, not the whims of influential hospital administrators and officials.” Hernandez firmly stated.

In response to RMC’s statements that typhoon Milenyo remained one of the factors that affected the extent of the hospital’s service, Hernandez laments, “For a true health professional committed to the principles of the health industry, there is no excuse for providing the standard, if not the best possible treatment for patients. Not even a typhoon can hamper a medical professional’s oath of service.”