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'Mafia link' to Sicily hospital deaths

2nd January 2007

31102006_corruption.jpgA senior Italian politician says heavy mafia investment in private, subsidised healthcare in Sicily has resulted in deteriorating care in public hospitals there, as the island faces a string of suspicious patient deaths in recent days.

Over Christmas, a 78 year-old woman died of a heart atack in an emergency ward in the island's capital, Palermo, after waiting four hours to be seen.

Two other high-profile cases involve a woman who gave birth to a stillborn baby after being refused a caesarian section, and a newborn baby who died in hospital amid accusations of malpractice.

Francesco Forgione, the head of the anti-mafia commission for the Italian parliament, said organised crime was heavily invested in Sicilian health centres, which numbered around 1,800.

These clinics offer government-subsidised services in order to reduce the workload for public hospitals. "But that has diverted funds from public hospitals, which are falling into a state of disrepair," Forgione told The Guardian. "Sicily is the first region in Italy for the financing of private health centres and the first for patient deaths."

He said the mafia was not only investing in private clinics but was also involved in steering public health contracts towards friendly companies. "During the hunt for mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano it was even discovered that some Palermo neighbourhood bosses were themselves doctors or lawyers, part of a new mafia bourgeoisie.

 

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