Nine-month-old infant Mahmoud Sayed Qutb died on Thursday at the Abbasseya Fever Hospital after 22 days of suffering due to the administration of defective oral rehydration therapy (ORT) in Beni Suef, the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported.
The victim’s mother told Al-Masry Al-Youm that doctors at the hospital told her that the ORT “contained harmful substance that destroyed the infant’s brain cells,” adding that they were still trying to identify the substance.
Media reports claim that this is the eighth case of death due to administration of the same medication to infants in different hospitals in Beni Suef. The victims all suffered from high fever, convulsions and severe vomiting.
However, Health Ministry spokesperson Hossam Abdel Ghaffar disputed the circulated numbers telling Mada Masr that, “The total number of deaths among infants in Beni Suef, from July 24 when the issue was discovered to July 25 when all the defective ORT was confiscated from all public hospitals, is four.”
“Investigations revealed that two of the victims were not treated with the solution,” he added, “After July 25, three other patients had the same symptoms, and only one was transferred to Abbasseya Fever Hospital, where he passed away on Thursday.” This puts the number of dead at three, rather than eight.
Regarding the misreported figures, Abdel Ghaffar explained, “We confiscated all the solution from public hospitals on July 25, so it is by no means possible that it was administered to any other patients.”
He continued, “During the period between July 25 and August 4, 10,457 children visited public hospitals in Beni Suef, 1,870 of which were admitted. Any deaths that occurred after July 25 fall within the standard 0.2 percent hospital deaths among children, due to respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, and they cannot be linked to the ORT in question.”
Furthermore, Abdel Ghaffar revealed that the ministry does not have the means to confirm whether the ORT solution was the cause of death in any of the cases.
“We analyzed samples of the ORT and can only say that it does not meet standards, but we cannot tell if it was the cause of death. That is the Forensic Medical Authority’s job.”
While Abdel Ghaffar does not know when a forensic report will be released, he said that Health Minister Adel al-Adawi brought charges to the prosecutor general, who opened an investigation into the Al Mottahedoon Pharma company’s practices for supplying ORT that does not meet official standards.
This is not the first time a case involving a medical supplies company causes public outrage. In 2006, the Haidylena Company for Advanced Medical Industries, headed by Mubarak-era MP Hany Sorour, was accused of supplying infected blood bags to the Health Ministry. Investigations revealed that the blood bags did not meet medical standards and contained microbes and fungi, which could lead to blood infections among patients and possibly death.
In April 2008, the Cairo Criminal Court ruled all defendants in the case innocent, including Sorour, other members of his company and two Health Ministry officials. The prosecutor general appealed the verdict and, followinga retrial, four of the defendants were sentenced to three years in prison.