By John Ikani
President of Senegal, Macky Sall has sacked his Health Minister, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, after 11 babies were killed by a fire in a hospital on Wednesday.
Mr Sarr will be replaced by Marie Khemesse Ngom Ndiaye, the ministry’s Director General, following the tragedy in Tivaouane.
The hospital fire which engulfed the newborn unit at the Tivaouane hospital was blamed on an electrical short circuit in Senegal’s western city of Tivaouane, authorities said Thursday.
The city’s mayor Demba Diop said the fire had been caused by a short circuit and spread very quickly.
He denied allegations from relatives at the hospital and across social media that the babies had been left alone, saying a midwife and nurse were present Wednesday evening.
“There was a noise and an explosion, that lasted three minutes at most,” he said outside the hospital entrance.
“Five minutes after, the fire brigade arrived. People used fire extinguishers.”
The mayor said the air-conditioning had accelerated the flames and added that the two nurses fainted but were revived.
“There was no negligence,” Diop insisted.
The sacked minister was alsonquoted in media reports blaming an electrical fault.
The tragedy was the latest in a series of hospital deaths that have exposed the weaknesses of the nation’s healthcare system.
“I have just learned with pain and dismay about the deaths of 11 newborn babies in the fire at the neonatal department of the public hospital,” Sall wrote after the fire late Wednesday.
“To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy,” he tweeted.
President Sall declared three days of national mourning and also ordered an investigation into the tragedy.
He is expected to visit Tivaouane on Saturday to meet the babies’ relatives.
Many observers say that Senegal’s health system is beset by staffing, infrastructure, equipment and funding problems.
A series of other deaths also have raised concerns about maternal and infant health in the West African nation known for having some of the best hospitals in the region.