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Johannesburg - A report released by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi into the death of four infants at a Limpopo hospital reflects a management crisis, Nehawu said on Friday.

“It is an indisputable fact that our staffing ratios in hospitals are inadequate, and George Masebe Hospital is no exception,” the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) said in a statement.

“Under-staffing cannot be underestimated because we know that it creates a toxic working environment, with workers feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work, especially during holiday season. It is always easy to blame staff members when scandalous events take place in hospitals.”

On Thursday, Motsoaledi released the report of a ministerial task team into the death of four babies at George Masebe Hospital, Limpopo, during the first week of January.

According to the report, a nurse with no administrative qualifications or management experience was acting as the manager of the hospital when the babies died because most staff were on leave.

“The critical factor underlying the deaths of these four children is inadequate control of, and unprofessional conduct by, members of the medical staff in the hospital, resulting in poor or not existent clinical care,” the report found.

“There is no shortage of medical staff in the hospital, but there was a shortage of personnel on duty at the time of these deaths. This shortage was due to the poor management and control of existing staff and the unprofessional conduct of many of the doctors employed in the hospital.”

The report said leave at the hospital was “not well managed” and that there was very little planning around leave.

Nehawu said those found to have acted negligently should be held accountable.

“At face value, it seems justified to point fingers at the doctors, but it is also a presumption to believe that they are reckless and couldn't be bothered with the plight of the patients,” the union said.

“This cycle of a perennial crisis in the health sector is not acceptable and not sustainable.”

The report said doctors arrived for ward rounds after 9am, and did not do ward rounds at all after hours, on weekends, or on public holidays.

There was no system in place to identify critically-ill patients, or to ensure they received appropriate attention or intensive care when a new shift took over.

The investigators recommended various steps be taken to manage medical staff, governance at the hospital, conduct of medical staff and replacing equipment. They also recommended that the hospital's acting manager be replaced with a competent appointee.

Motsoaledi said the absent doctors had been reported to the Health Professions Council of SA. - Sapa