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28-year-old pregnant doctor dies of COVID-19 in Algeria

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– The death of a pregnant Algerian doctor from the COVID-19 disease after she was denied maternity leave has sparked an uproar and prompted the dismissal Sunday of a hospital director.

Health Minister Abderrahman Benbouzid sacked the director of the Ras El Oued hospital in eastern Algeria after Wafa Boudissa succumbed to COVID-19, a source close to the case told AFP.

The 28-year-old doctor was eight months pregnant and worked at the IC surgery unit of the hospital when she died on Friday.

She had asked the hospital chief, who was not named, for early maternity leave, but he refused to let her take any time off.

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Colleagues of the victim had backed her request and signed a petition in solidarity, one of them said.

Benbouzid on Saturday ordered an investigation into the death of Boudissa and, in an unprecedented move, tasked the inspector general of the health ministry to head the probe.

The source close to the case said that anyone found directly responsible for her death could face trial for negligent homicide.

State television meanwhile broadcast footage showing Benbouzid visiting the hospital and then Boudissa’s family home to offer his condolences.

In the footage, Benbouzid said he could not comprehend why a pregnant woman was forced to work, while Boudissa’s co-workers denounced those behind her death.

A presidential decree released at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic had stated that pregnant women and those raising children were among individuals allowed to take exceptional leave from work.

According to officially declared figures, Algeria has registered 6,821 cases of coronavirus, including 542 deaths, since February.

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