Police probe fatal slip at hospital

Police and the Health and Welfare Ministry said Tuesday they will investigate the death of an 18-month-old girl who died Monday at Tokai University Hospital after a nurse botched her care.

The nurse mixed up a tube for intravenous drip and a stomach tube and administered medicine into the wrong one.

“It is quite regrettable that a precious life has been lost due to such a basic mistake,” Health Minister Yuya Niwa told a news conference, indicating his ministry will look into safety management at the hospital in Isehara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Authorities believe they need to take strong action to prevent similar accidents in the prefecture, as it comes in the wake of a patient-mixup case at Yokoyama City University Hospital in January last year.

Tokai University Hospital head Ryuzaburo Tanino told a press conference Monday night that the nurse put cough and diarrhea medicine into the tube for intravenous drip instead of pumping it into the stomach tube.

The tube for intravenous drip was attached to the baby’s right hand, while the stomach tube was attached to her left hand.

The medicine was administered at 8:45 a.m. Sunday and the baby died of heart failure and other complications about nine hours later, Tanino said.

Kanagawa Prefectural Police said they plan to pursue a criminal case against the nurse, who was identified only as a woman in her mid-20s.

Tokai University Hospital doctors said the nurse dissolved six types of cough and diarrhea medicine into 5 cc of water and released the concoction into the tube for intravenous drip.

The condition of the baby, who was being treated for stomach and bronchial ailments, deteriorated quickly, and the medical staff summoned to the scene carried out a blood transfusion and took other measures in a bid to reverse the situation, doctors said.

The girl’s condition stabilized for a while, but deteriorated sharply in the afternoon. She died at 7:30 p.m.

“It was clearly a case of malpractice on the part of our hospital. We are going to do everything we can to compensate her family and will do everything possible to prevent such an incident from occurring again,” Tanino said.

Medical experts say stomach tubes for use in adult patients are normally larger than tubes designed for intravenous drip. There is, however, no difference in size for the two types of ducts sold in Japan for use in infants.

Some hospitals use different colors to distinguish the two types of tubes.