Newborn Dies of Third-Degree Burns From Light in Makeshift Hospital Incubator

January 22, 2019 Updated: January 22, 2019

The family of a premature newborn baby said he was killed by the light bulb in a make-shift hospital incubator that left his delicate skin with third-degree burns.

The hospital in Bolivia is now under investigation, according to local media reports, after an eight-week premature baby sustained burns to his arm and body after staff left him allegedly unsupervised for two hours in an improvised incubator with a domestic heater.

The baby died a few hours later, on Jan. 17, after being transferred to another hospital, just 7 hours old.

“My child was born healthy, as a child they put him in an improvised incubator with strong lights and there he suffered third-degree burns,” said Carmen Salvatierra, 15, according to Los Tiempos. “The hospital did not have a real incubator. They burned my son, I want them to find those responsible for this negligence.”

Authorities have identified five staff at the Nuestra Señora del Rosario Hospital in Warnes, in central Bolivia whom they wish to speak to regarding possible culpable homicide. The case has also drawn attention to the age of the mother, and the father now faces possible charges for statutory rape.

Some local media carry an image of the newborn with burns visible on the torso and arms.

The baby’s family was told to try to find an incubator of their own, as the hospital did not have one available.

In the meantime, the baby sustained the burns from the improvised incubator. After being rushed to one other hospital for burns treatment, which was full, the child ended up at the Children’s Hospital but died around 4:30 a.m.

A nurse changes the diaper
A nurse changes the diaper of an infant in Gaza city in this file image of an incubator on Feb. 16, 2012. (Mohammed AbedD/AFP/Getty Images)

According to the baby’s aunt, as reported by El Deber, medical staff said that even if the baby had lived “he would lose both hands.”

The 32-week pregnant Salvatierra started having contractions on Jan. 16 and was already sufficiently dilated when she came into the hospital, so staff broke her water.

“When my baby was born, he cried very loudly,” she said, according to El Deber. “Then I did not cry like that anymore, I thought he was sleeping.”

“Instead of giving it to me so I can give it my warmth, they put it in the incubator, on a kind of mat, and put on the heater and a yellow light,” she said.

Then the staff led her out of the room.

The baby’s grandmother, María del Carmen Zabala, said that staff would not let her go into the room to check on her grandson in his make-shift incubator.

“They left him exposed to that heating for more than two hours,” she said, according to El Deber. ” I asked how he was and they told me that it was fine but that he needed an incubator and we had to find us where to take him. After midnight the baby was brought to us but they did not say it was burned. When I saw him, I got scared and asked why his arms were so red, his chest and part of his face and the pediatrician told me that his skin was so delicate that only the light had caused that, ” he said.

According to Opinion, the hospital staff has not been paid for four months.

premature baby
A premature baby lies in an incubator in the neonatal ward in Lens, northern France on Dec. 4, 2013. (Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

“The police have already carried out their field work and it has been determined that there are five people suspected of being responsible for the death of the baby, among whom are two nurses, the gynecologist, the pediatrician, and a resident. For them a citation order has been issued,” the local prosecutor said, according to EJU. 

Vice president of the Santa Cruz Medical College, Wilfredo Anzoategui, according to the Sun said, “These are the conditions we are working under.”

“We are forced to take risky decisions all the time, such as this case where a baby’s life was put in danger,” he said.

Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey
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