Pregnant Algerian doctor denied maternity leave, dies of coronavirus

by Muizat Hameed

A 28 year old pregnant Algerian doctor, Wafa Boudissa who was denied maternity leave three times, has died of the coronavirus.

The victim who was eight months pregnant as of her time of death had requested early maternity leave three consecutive times, but was denied each time by the hospital director.

Boudissa’s colleagues had signed a petition backing her request to take early maternity leave, after a presidential decree, released as the coronavirus reached Algeria, stated that pregnant women and mothers were among individuals allowed to take exceptional leave from work. However, all was on the chief’s deaf ear.

A local news agency reported that Wafa’s husband had moved the family to an apartment near the hospital at the start of Ramadan, after the director refused his wife early maternity leave.

Adding, the hospital director also “refused to recognise the difficulties posed by transport and movement restrictions” in the city as a result of the national lockdown.

Health Minister Abderraham Benbouzid has dismissed the hospital director after the news of Boudissa’s death was reported.

State television broadcast footage of the health minister saying he could not understand why a pregnant woman was forced to work, during a visit to the deceased’s family and the hospital to offer his condolences.

On Saturday, Benbouzid ordered an investigation into the doctor’s death, and in an unprecedented move tasked the inspector general of the health ministry to head the probe.

“Anyone found directly responsible for Boudissa’s death could face trial for negligent homicide,” Benbouzid said.

The case has also sparked outrage, with Algerians taking to Twitter calling for those responsible to go to prison.

One user tweeted in French: “He deserves to go to jail, it’s clearly homicide.”

Boudissa was working at the Intensive Care surgery unit of the Ras El Oued Hospital in eastern Algeria, but the medical centre has denied she was treating coronavirus patients.

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