The Public Servants Association (PSA) on Tuesday condemned the deaths of four babies at George Masebe Hospital in Mokopane, Limpopo.
The babies reportedly died of treatable diseases last week, as the hospital faced severe staff shortages.
PSA manager in Limpopo, Pieter Koen, said what was disturbing was that the province had a vacancy level of 70 percent for medical doctors.
“What is even more disturbing is the fact that the MEC and senior officials of the health department are well aware of the shortage of doctors at numerous hospitals in the province,” he said.
Beeld newspaper reported that provincial health MEC Norman Mabasa said the 288-bed hospital should have 38 doctors, but that it had only eight.
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union said only one doctor was on duty when the deaths occurred.
The SABC reported that there was not only a shortage of doctors, but that the hospital's entire management was on leave at the time of the deaths.
Mabasa said a commission of inquiry would look into the matter.
“I want to know exactly how and when each child died. As we understand it, two died shortly after they arrived in the casualty unit, and the other two died after being admitted to the wards,” he told Beeld.
The commission was expected to report back to him within a week. He promised to take action if hospital personnel were found to have been negligent.
Koen said the inquiry would not fix the problem and recommended that the vacancies be filled urgently.
Meanwhile, the SA Medical Association (Sama) has since said it would send doctors to the hospital's paediatric ward.
“Our members, both in public and private (practice), have volunteered, starting on Tuesday, with paediatric ward rounds,” said Sama chairwoman Phophi Ramathuba.
“We will be taking turns in providing health services until the situation is normalised.” - Sapa