Italy's health minister traveled to Sicily on Monday to apologize to a new mother for an operating room fistfight between two doctors that led to her botched delivery.

Laura Salpietro, 30, had to have her uterus removed and her son Antonio suffered heart problems and possible brain damage following his birth Thursday in Messina's public hospital, Italian news reports said.

Health officials and Salpietro's husband, Matteo Molonia, say the two doctors disagreed about whether to perform a Caesarean section and came to blows while Salpietro was in labor. Molonia says the fight delayed the C-section by over an hour, leading to complications for mother and son.

Prosecutors have placed five doctors under investigation, and Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio visited Salpietro on Monday in the hospital to apologize.

"I tried to give her words of hope, and above all I tried to tell her that the government was with her and her family at this time," Fazio was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

The incident was the latest evidence of medical mishaps frequently reported in southern Italian hospitals. It also cast a fresh spotlight on their unusually high C-section rates: Some 38 percent of all births in Italy are done by C-section, more than twice the 15 percent recommended by the World Health Organization.

In Sicily, however, the average is 52 percent while Campania — the southern mainland region that includes Naples — it reaches 60 percent, Fazio noted.

Fazio said the incident also raised questions about the increasing intermingling of private doctors working in public hospitals; in this case one of the dueling doctors was Salpietro's private gynecologist who cared for her during her pregnancy while the other was the doctor on duty at the hospital.