Minister apologises for doctors' C-section punch-up
Published 31/08/2010 | 05:00
ITALY'S health minister was dispatched to Sicily yesterday to personally apologise to a woman whose delivery of a son was botched when her two doctors got into a fistfight in the operating theatre.
Laura Salpietro (30) also had to have her uterus removed and her son, Antonio, suffered heart problems and possible brain damage following his birth last Thursday in Messina's public hospital.
Health officials and Ms Salpietro's husband, Matteo Molonia, said the two doctors disagreed about whether to perform a Caesarean section and then began punching each other while Ms Salpietro was in labour. Mr Molonia said that the brawl delayed the C-section by over an hour, leading to complications for both mother and son.
The fistfight occurred at a state hospital between a doctor who works there and a private physician who Ms Salpietro paid as her gynaecologist.
Prosecutors have placed five doctors under investigation, and Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio visited Ms Salpietro in the hospital to apologise.
"I tried to give her words of hope, and above all I tried to tell her that the government was with her and her family at this time," Mr Fazio said.
The incident was the latest evidence of medical mistakes frequently reported in southern Italian hospitals and it underscored Italians' increasing use of private doctors.
Italy has universal healthcare, but some Italians use private doctors to avoid long waits for procedures.
Mr Fazio said the botched delivery raised questions about this increasing intermingling of private doctors working in public hospitals. While many women choose to deliver in private clinics, some who have private doctors give birth in public hospitals equipped with neonatal units and other emergency facilities not always available in private clinics.
The case also cast a fresh spotlight on the unusually high C-section rates in southern Italy. Some 38pc of all births in Italy are done by C-section, more than twice the 15pc recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In Sicily, however, the average is 52pc. In Campania -- the southern mainland region that includes Naples -- it reaches 60pc, Mr Fazio noted.
Earlier this year, the WHO reported that China had registered the highest C-section rate in the world at 46pc, a quarter of which were medically unnecessary.