GUANGZHOU - A hospital in South China has suspended four medics for dumping a newborn baby they wrongly thought was dead into a plastic bag and then leaving it in a bathroom.
Moments after giving birth at Nanhai Red Cross Hospital in Foshan city of Guangdong province, Liu Dongmei said she was told by nurses that her son was stillborn.
The mistake was only discovered 30 minutes later when a relative of the mother noticed the child was still moving.
The medical team did not abide by the hospital's operational rules and a thorough investigation has been launched, Pan Yongtong, executive deputy director of Nanhai district's bureau of health, population and family planning, told a news conference.
"They (the four staff members) must bear the responsibility," he was quoted as saying by Nanfang Daily on Friday. The names and positions of the suspended employees were not released.
Huang Lichuan, director of gynecology and obstetrics at the hospital, admitted that the doctors and nurses had shown negligence.
"The hospital is now doing what it can to help treat the premature baby and actively coordinate with the family of the victim for compensation," he said.
Liu, 23, was seven months pregnant when she arrived at Nanhai Red Cross Hospital on Oct 23 with her 24-year-old husband, Wang Haizhang. She was hospitalized due to acute stomach pains and, three days later, went into labor.
"Although my husband told the doctor on duty several times between 3 am and 5 am that I had suffered a hemorrhage and was ready to deliver, the doctor came to the ward just minutes before I delivered," Liu was quoted as saying by Nanfang Daily.
What happened then remains unclear, but it has been claimed that the doctor diagnosed a stillbirth and then walked away, leaving two nurses to handle the delivery.
Immediately after Liu gave birth in the ward, she says she was informed her baby was dead, as it was not crying. It was then wrapped in a yellow plastic bag and placed in a nearby bathroom.
However, when Liu's sister-in-law Wang Heping arrived 30 minutes later and asked to see the body, she noticed the plastic bag was moving.
Noticing their mistake, staff members instantly transferred the child to the hospital's intensive care unit.
"After the delivery, the nurses told me the baby was a girl - but I actually had a son," Liu was quoted as saying. She added: "He weighed only 1.9 kilograms and was 45 cm long when he was born, but after a week's treatment in intensive care, he's in a good condition."
Hao Hu, a senior pediatrician at No 6 Hospital Affiliated to Sun Yat-sen University, questioned why medics did not check the baby's pulse or eyes before putting him in a bathroom.
"Even if a newborn infant is not breathing, medics should spend 15 to 30 minutes attempting to resuscitate it before certifying it as being dead," he said.
Liu and Wang, migrant workers from Ji'an in Jiangxi province, have demanded 300,000 yuan ($47,000) in compensation to pay for the cost of transferring their child to another hospital.
The hospital has so far promised to help pay the medical fees and offered 8,000 yuan in compensation, Liu told Nanfang Daily.
"Family members of the victim can certainly ask for compensation if the baby is detected to have brain damage or any other disease in the future," Dai Guoliang, an attorney at Bangnan Law Firm, told China Daily.
"Those found guilty of medical malpractice face up to three years in prison, according to Chinese laws and regulations."