Senegal police arrest 2 health workers after neonatal fire

By Babacar Dione

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) – Senegalese officials have arrested two health workers from a neonatal unit where a fire killed 11 newborns last week.

The nurse and a nurse’s aide who were on duty Wednesday night when the fire took place at the Abdoul Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital were arrested for “neglecting children” and “endangering the lives of others,” according to reports by private Senegalese radio station Rfm.

The arrests took place Sunday, days after President Macky Sall promised a police and general state inspector investigation to determine the cause of the fire. He also called for auditing of all medical equipment that accommodates newborns in the country.

Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr was fired last week and replaced by senior ministry official Marie Khemesse Ngom Ndiaye, the government said. Sarr, who was was attending the

World Health Assembly in Geneva, cut short his trip to return to Senegal and told Rfm that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit.

The Abdoul Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital is located in Tivaouane, a town 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of the capital, Dakar.

The deadly fire comes a year after four other newborns died in a hospital fire in Linguere in northern Senegal.

A series of other deaths also have raised concerns about maternal and infant health in the West African nation known for having some of the best hospitals in the region.

Earlier this month, authorities discovered a baby that had been declared dead by a nurse’s aide was still alive in a morgue. The infant later died.

Last year a pregnant woman died in Louga, in the north of the country, after waiting in vain for a cesarean section. Three midwives were given six-month suspended sentences for not giving help to a person in danger.