Prosecutors in Argentina have opened an investigation into the deaths of at least five newborn babies at a hospital in Córdoba Province, probing allegations that malpractice or homicide may be responsible for the tragedies, health and judicial sources said Friday.
All five incidents concern were healthy babies born to healthy mothers and although there are five confirmed cases to date, sources in the Córdoba Province Health Ministry say they have not ruled out the possibility that there could be more.
All were born between March and June, but the probe only came to light this week after a complaint was filed by the grandmother of a baby girl who died last month, on June 6.
The prosecutor in charge of the case Raúl Garzón, said Friday that he is investigating whether there was "malpractice, homicide or negligence" in the deaths, while ruling out the possibility of drug contamination.
He revealed that the autopsies of two of the deceased babies had revealed high levels of potassium in their bloodstreams.
Carlos Damin, head of Toxicology at the Fernández Hospital in Buenos Aires, told the Infobae news site that "only by oral administration or injection can potassium poisoning and even death be caused."
A total of 23 employees and the authorities of the Hospital Materno Neonatal Ministro Dr. Ramón Carillo (Ramón Carrillo Maternity and Neonatal Hospital in Córdoba), some 700 kilometres north of Buenos Aires, have been dismissed from their posts, according to the provincial Health Ministry.
A source at the neonatal hospital, quoted by the local La Voz de Córdoba newspaper, said that all the babies were reportedly suffering from sudden severe hypoglycaemia. "It is not the number of deaths that is striking, but the reason for the deaths," he said.