Outcry after Tunisian doctor dies in hospital lift accident

Outcry after Tunisian doctor dies in hospital lift accident
Tunisian doctors and medical students are demanding the health minister resign after the death of a resident doctor who fell from a broken hospital elevator.
3 min read
04 December, 2020
Tunisians protest after the death of a resident doctor [AFP/Getty]

Hundreds of medics protested in Tunisia on Friday after a young doctor died in a hospital elevator accident in the country's northwest.

Badreddedine Aloui, 27, plunged to his death Thursday down an elevator shaft after the lift doors opened but with no elevator in place, witnesses interviewed by local media said.

The elevator, in a hospital in the marginalised Jendouba region, had allegedly remained in service despite a long-reported fault.

According to Al-Araby Al-JadeedThe New Arab's Arabic-language service, Bashir Al-Saidi, general clerk of the Doctors' Syndicate in Jendouba, said Aloui fell from the hospital's fifth floor to the ground floor.

Al-Saidi stated that the union in September discusssed the hospital's faulty elevators with Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi, who in turn promised the elevators would be repaired but did not act on it.

Hundreds of doctors, health workers and medical students gathered in front of the health ministry in the capital Tunis on Friday, demanding the health minister and other officials be sacked, an AFP correspondent reported.

The hospital has been visited by two government ministers over the past months, including Mehdi in October.

"A young doctor has died as a result of this negligence," said Zied Bouguerra, a member of the Tunisian Organisation of Young Doctors.

A protest was also held in the eastern port city of Sfax.

Local media reported that Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi ordered a state funeral, with the surgeon to be buried Friday in his native Kasserine, in western Tunisia.

Jad Al-Hishri, head of the Tunisian Organisation of Young Doctors, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that five out of the six elevators in Jendouba's hospital are not working properly.

"The story of the elevator of death has been known in Jendouba's hospital since 2016 and faults have often been condemned, but no one has sought reform," said Al-Hishri.

According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Mohab Al-Karoui, executive director of Tunisian corruption watchdog I WATCH, said one particular elevator in Jendouba's hospital is known to break down often.

These issues have forced staff and patients to use the seven-storey building's stairs, with some patients needing to be carried, according to Al-Karoui.

Tunisians have also taken to social media to denounce what they say are disfunctional public services, particularly in the health sector, in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Tunisia had managed to keep its outbreak largely contained until the end of June but cases have soared in recent months. 

The North African country has officially registered over 3,300 deaths and is nearing 100,000 infections.

Hospitals with limited resources and management problems have been struggling to cope.

The accident came at a time when the country's health budget is currently before parliament.

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