MONTEVIDEO – Uruguayan authorities tried on Monday to calm the public after the alarm generated by the deaths of 16 patients in two Montevideo hospitals at the hands of two nurses.
In presenting a set of actions to ensure that other patients do not die in a similar manner, Health Minister Jorge Venegas said that all personnel subordinate to his office must “work (hard) to recover the image and credibility” of the health care system.
The two nurses, identified only as J.A.A., 46, and M.P.G., 39, were arraigned Sunday and ordered held without bail, after confessing before Judge Rolando Vomero to being the perpetrators of the 16 murders.
J.A.A. admitted killing 11 patients at the Asociacion Española, a prestigious private institution, and M.P.G. admitted killing the other five at the Hospital Maciel, a public clinic.
Along with the two men, a nurse who knew one of them was charged with covering up their deeds, although it is not known at present if there was a coordinated attempt to do so.
Despite the fact that defense lawyers are suggesting that “mercy” was the motive for the crimes, Ines Massioti, J.A.A.’s legal representative, said that her client suffered sexual abuse as a child and went through an episode of stress after working for 20 years in intensive care units.
Authorities also say that not all of the slain patients were terminal.
The capture of the nurses followed a weeks-long police investigation.
Among the actions approved by the Health Ministry to deal with this situation are the launching of administrative investigations at the hospitals in question and the inspection of every ICU in the country.
Psychological support will also be offered to health personnel if they need it and a confidential telephone line will be set up to take complaints or tips of possible questionable deaths at hospitals, as well as strengthening the support unit for families of the victims.
The identities of the victims are being withheld, but two daughters of a woman who died last Monday at Hospital Maciel, Gladys Lemos, revealed to the daily El Observador that their mother’s case is the one that led authorities to take the nurses into custody.
Lemos, 74, had been admitted to the hospital with convulsions on March 1 and after being treated she was to be released last Monday, but she died suddenly a few hours before she was scheduled to leave the hospital. EFE