In Italy, controversy has mounted over conditions in hospital maternity wards after a newborn is believed to have suffocated to death under the weight of a mother who fell asleep after breastfeeding.
An investigation into the tragedy that occurred on January 8 at the Sandro Pertini Hospital in Rome is ongoing. Autopsy results are expected within 60 days.
The child was born three days prematurely after her 30-year-old mother went through 17 hours of labor.
Hospital rules required staff to ensure the baby was put back in bed after feeding.
Realizing the child was in danger of choking, a woman in a nearby bed called for help, but the child died before staff arrived.
“My client remembers suddenly waking up and not having the baby anymore.” took her to her room and told her the tragic news.”
The child’s father claimed that his exhausted partner took the baby to a daycare and asked him to rest for a few hours, but was refused.
Italy’s health ministry has ordered a report on the incident as a petition calling for more checks for families in maternity wards and better postnatal support has collected more than 100,000 signatures by Wednesday.
Dozens of mothers have shared their experiences of being “abandoned” after giving birth, but unions blame staff shortages, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It can happen to anyone,” one woman wrote on social media. “After 15 hours of labor and an emergency C-section, I fell asleep exhausted holding my daughter Julia to my chest. Luckily, my mother put her in her crib.”
The local health authority responsible for Sandro Pertini Hospital said it would cooperate with the investigation but denied allegations of inadequate postnatal services and said the department was understaffed.
Healthcare systems across Europe are struggling, at the expense of aging populations, longer-lasting illnesses and a crisis of adoption.
Giovanni Leoni, vice-president of the Italian Federation of Physicians, said in December that staff shortages were rampant in all hospital units, especially as the pandemic caused an exodus from the profession.