The police Tuesday raided the homes of eight medical workers suspected of being involved in the recent deaths of four infants at Ewha hospital, including the head of its neonatal intensive care unit.
A special investigative team from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency searched and seized the homes of faculty members of Ewha Womans University Medical Center (EUMC) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to secure relevant evidence. The eight people are five medical faculties indicted on charges of accidental homicide from professional negligence and three other suspects.
|Police executed search and seize warrants at homes of eight suspects of the Ewha hospital deaths.|
Police said they seized relevant possessions and documents from the director of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Cho Su-jin, who is currently hospitalized due to unpublicized health conditions. Investigators also searched both EUMC’s and Cho’s residence, according to the police.
The investigative agency said it would summon Cho, who is currently denying all allegations of malpractice, once more on Friday.
The recent probe is the extension of the police investigation launched last week into EUMC and staff involved in the newborns’ deaths. Investigators said they had gathered evidence about malpractice of infection control and negligence of duty.
However, the police said, they are not ruling out the possibility of a product flaw to be the cause instead of medical malpractice. “Currently, we are placing more weight on the charge of accidental homicide from professional malpractice, but we are also considering the possibility of product contamination,” said an officer at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it would announce the results from an asepsis inspection on the related medical products later this week.
The police noted it would launch a comparative survey on university hospitals in Seoul to confirm the allegations surrounding the charges of inadequate infection control at EUMC and charges of the hospital making false insurance claims on medication. The police said they would also investigate other hospitals to check on the alleged problem of poor hospital maintenance.
The police have sent official letters to third-tier hospitals in Seoul to notify them of the upcoming surveys that will check and compare the status of NICUs. The team will request the hospitals to cooperate in submitting relevant documents, they said.
“Regarding the validity of false claims on insurance, an in-depth investigation into the professors and primary care physicians is crucial as the [questioned] nurses said they did not know much about the claims,” the police officer said.
Meanwhile, Ewha Womans University President Kim Hei-sook dismissed the hospital’s medical director Shim Bong-suk and hospital director Chung Hye-won Tuesday, accepting their resignation letters. The two directors expressed their intention to step down last week.
As for five faculty members who tendered their resignation along with Shim and Chung, the president said she had reserved their departure for now.
The hospital head appointed Professor Kim Kwang-ho to serve as the hospital’s acting medical director and hospital director as well as the chairman of a special operations committee. Kim, who had served as EUMC director until 2013, will take on relevant tasks until a new medical director is appointed and management is formed accordingly.
The EUMC president stirred controversy last week by saying she would nominate ex-director Chung to serve as the special operations committee chairman to remedy the situation and return the hospital to normal operations.
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