|Minister for public health, Jorge Venegas, left, says there will be an internal investigation into the deaths [AFP]
Two male nurses in Uruguay have been charged in connection to a case involving more than a dozen deaths at two Uruguayan hospitals, judicial officials said.
The men were held after a two-month police investigation, in the capital Montevideo. A third nurse was also charged with concealing evidence.
The names of the nurses have not been released.
Officials say the alleged killings took place in the cardiology unit of the Maciel Hospital and in the intensive care unit of the Spanish Mutual Care hospital.
Judge Rolando Vomero said after a court hearing that the accused admitted to causing a total of 16 deaths of patients, but added that the investigation continued and the number was not final, and there was no indication the two male nurses were acting together.
The judge said that from the evidence gathered so far, it did not appear that there were any connections between the two nurses even though they both worked at the same place.
He said most of the apparent victims were not terminally ill.
Vomero said one male nurse who worked at both hospitals admitted being involved in five induced deaths, and the other to 11 deaths in one hospital.
'Out of pity'
Lawyer Ines Massioti, who represented one of the nurses charged with especially aggravated murder, said her client acted "out of pity".
"After 20 years of working in intensive care, with stress and in contact with death, he could not stand it anymore," said Massioti.
Police inspector Jose Luis Roldan said officials were investigating suspicions that some hospital workers had given poison to patients who were in critical condition at the two hospitals.
Jorge Venegas, the minister for public health, has said the ministry is conducting its own investigation and expressed "profound concern".