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Investigation underway into death of baby at Bern's university clinic

Inselspital pharmacist, Hans-Rudolf Widmer, revealed the details of the baby's death on Thursday

(Keystone)

The justice authorities have launched a criminal inquiry into the death of a newborn baby at one of Switzerland's largest hospitals in Bern. The baby died after allegedly being given the wrong medication.

The investigating magistrate, Hanspeter Kiener, said on Friday that the inquiry was focusing on staff at the hospital pharmacy as well as a company which had provided medical equipment to the hospital.

However, it is not yet clear how many people will face charges for causing death and serious bodily harm. The authorities hope to conclude the investigation within six months.

Three newborn babies were given the wrong medication, allegedly containing calcium instead of glucose. One child died on December 20, while two others recovered. But it is feared that they may develop medical problems later on.

On Thursday, officials at the Inselspital, Bern's university clinic, said the mix-up was the result of an error that occurred at the hospital pharmacy last January.

At the time, employees of a medical company were testing a sterilisation installation for medicines at the pharmacy. Reports say pharmacy staff continued production of a glucose solution.

Nearly 300 bottles of the solution have been confiscated. The authorities say they have found a few bottles, which contained calcium instead of glucose.

In response, an organisation representing medical patients has called for legal amendments to bring more cases of medical mistakes into the open. The group says 3,000 people die in Switzerland every year as a result of such errors.

The federal authorities say moves are underway to set up a special commission to deal with the problem. They have called on the medical profession to be more open and to admit that tragic mistakes occur.

The incident in Bern is the second case in three years in which medicine is known to have been mixed up in a Swiss hospital. A patient died in a Lucerne hospital in 1998 after mistakenly been given a lethal injection.

swissinfo with agencies

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