15 babies killed by Tunisia hospital infection, probe finds

By AFP

Investigations were launched after newborns at the Rabta state hospital in Tunis started dying last week.

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Fifteen babies were killed by an infection at a Tunisian state hospital, investigators said Friday, as they announced a new death toll in a scandal which has sparked public outrage.

Investigations were launched after newborns at the Rabta state hospital in Tunis started dying last week.

Mohamed Douagi, head of the commission of inquiry, said Friday in total 22 babies have died at the clinic since March 6.

"Medically it is proven that 15 of these deaths are linked in a direct or indirect way to the bacterial infection," he said in a press conference broadcast online.

"It's the final toll of this tragedy," he added.

The acting health minister, Sonia Ben Cheikh, said Monday 12 babies had died from a hospital-acquired infection according to preliminary findings.

"The whole health sector is in a state of emergency," she said.

The deaths of the newborns prompted her predecessor Abderraouf Cherif to resign, while a number of senior health ministry officials have also stepped down.

Tunisia's public health system was once a source of pride, but it has been hit by management and financial problems that lowered standards and caused drug shortages.