Tivaouane, Senegal — After a fire at a hospital in this city in the country’s west that claimed the lives of 11 newborn infants, President Macky Sall of Senegal has dismissed the country’s minister of health and declared three days of national mourning.
A day after a tragic fire in the maternity department of Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital, which was blamed on an electrical short circuit, President Sall fired Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr on Thursday evening. The cause of the fire was determined to have been an electrical short circuit.
According to the Associated Press and reports from local media, the Minister of the Interior said that an investigation would be conducted into the circumstances at that public hospital as well as other health care facilities in Senegal.
The health care system in Senegal, which is usually regarded as one of the greatest in all of West Africa, has come under scrutiny after a string of recent, fatal incidents that occurred in the country’s hospitals and clinics.
A fire broke out at a hospital in the city of Linguère, which was located in the north of the country, in the month of April 2021. According to the mayor of the town, the fire started because of an electrical problem in one of the town’s air conditioning units.
Six months later, a child who had been placed in an incubator at a hospital in Dakar burnt to death and was declared dead.
Two months ago, a lady who was already nine months pregnant went to an emergency room at a hospital in the city of Louga, which is located in the northern region. She was not allowed to undergo a cesarean section since she did not have an appointment, and she passed away 20 hours after that.
The infants who were killed in the fire on Wednesday were being kept under a specialized light that was intended to cure jaundice, a disease that is prevalent in premature infants. The blaze forced the evacuation of three infants, who were all saved.
On Thursday, Nogaye Mar, whose baby granddaughter perished in the fire, was seen inconsolable outside of the hospital. According to her, no one was watching over the infants.
According to statements made by Mar to VOA, “We got the first word of the fire at 9 o’clock that evening, but there was no medical personnel on-site.” “Downstairs was where all three security guards were stationed. Someone who had given supper to ill individuals was the one who first noticed anything was wrong. He said that there was smoke; all of them could smell it, but they were unable to determine where the odor was coming from. When the fire really got going, that’s when they found him (the baby), but by the time they got there to save him, it was too late.”
Another patient at the hospital, Adja Ndella Gueye, had similar concerns over the lack of available staff members.
She said that “the carelessness is genuine” because if the employees who were on duty had been at their places, we would have been able to avert this disaster. “We, the patients, have the worst possible experience at this hospital because of the reception issue that exists here. It is about time that the way the hospital is managed was analyzed and evaluated. Everyone is upset about it, but we women who give life are particularly vocal about our dissatisfaction. It is quite difficult to maintain composure in the face of such a terrible circumstance for any woman who has ever been pregnant or given birth to a child. I would stress that if the person had been there, the number of casualties that we have counted would be lower.”
In a tweet sent out on Friday, the Senegalese office of Amnesty International asked for “a fast improvement of equipment and facilities in hospitals” as well as a judicial investigation into the incident.
Aminatou Sar is now serving as the national director for the Senegalese branch of the non-profit organization known as the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH). According to her, the primary reason for the occurrence of the occurrences is a lack of maintenance.
“And these tragedies will, unfortunately, happen again and again,” Sar said, “until we really understand that it is not a matter of people or of how much money or how much expensive equipment we put in the health facilities if we are not able to provide electricity correctly and maintain this equipment.”
The majority of pregnant women in Senegal give birth at home rather than in medical facilities because they are uncomfortable with the medical system. However, great progress has been made due to the increase in the number of health care facilities located in rural regions, in addition to educational activities.
The percentage of births that take place in hospitals or other medical institutions has climbed significantly over the last quarter-century, going from 47% to 80%. During that time period, the rate of infant mortality decreased from 138 deaths for every 1,000 births to the current rate of 38 deaths for every 1,000 births.
The fire that occurred on Wednesday is an example of an incident that has the ability to slow development, according to Sar of PATH. This is especially true given the prominence that social media gives to such events.
According to Ousmane Dia, director of public health facilities for Senegal’s ministry of health, “What we can say is that there was a technical breakdown because there was a short circuit, and in all systems, undesirable occurrences may happen,” “It’s possible that something has more than one root. People may sometimes bring mobile phones or tea kettles into hospitals, which can lead to unexpected and perhaps dangerous outcomes.”
Dia said that Sarr had accomplished a great deal during his time as health minister, notably in relation to Senegal’s COVID-19 response, and expressed gratitude for Sarr’s service.
PATH’s Aminatou Sar said that the move was a welcome indicator that the government was treating the situation seriously, but that it did not fix the greater problem.
On Saturday, it is anticipated that Sall would pay his condolences to bereaved relatives in Tivaouane.