File picture: Elisabet Ottosson/Flickr
File picture: Elisabet Ottosson/Flickr

How many more babies must die? DA asks amid Tembisa hospital tragedy

By Tebogo Monama Time of article published Jan 21, 2020

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Johannesburg - Overcrowding has been blamed for the deaths of 10 babies following an outbreak of a bacterial infection at Tembisa Hospital.

The carbapenem-resistant enterobacterales (CRE) outbreak was confirmed after the disease spread through the neonatal section of the hospital between November and December.

Seventeen cases were confirmed and 10 children died.

According to the Gauteng health department, CRE is part of a family of bacteria that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics. They can cause deadly infections in your bloodstream, lungs and urinary tract, including pneumonia and meningitis.

Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana blamed the outbreak on overcrowding in hospitals. “Tembisa Hospital, like many other health facilities in the province, is faced with the challenge of ever increasing demand for services.

“The 44-bed neonatal unit often admits close to 90 patients. While the department is looking at improving the hospital infrastructure it is doing its utmost to serve patients with respect and dignity,” she said.

Kekana said they had implemented a way to deal with the outbreak, including diverting new admissions to Kalafong Hospital and Steve Biko Academic Hospital.

The National Centre for Communicable Diseases will also monitor the outbreak.

DA health spokesperson Jack Bloom criticised the department for failing to keep patients safe.

“We need to know why the public were not informed earlier and what accountability there will be for these deaths,” he said.

“Overcrowding and poor hygiene measures are a major problem in neonatal units in Gauteng hospitals. This led to the deaths of six babies from klebsiella at Thelle Mogoerane Hospital in 2018, but there has been no proper accountability for these deaths.

“How many more babies will die before effective measures are taken at all hospitals? It’s no use waking up after the tragedy when babies have already died.

“The department needs to ensure that all neonatal units have enough staff and beds, with strict hygiene to prevent more klebsiella deaths,” Bloom said.

In 2018, the same year that klebsiella pneumoniae killed the six babies at Thelle Mogoerane Hospital in Ekurhuleni, nine babies died at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital following an outbreak of necrotising enterocolitis.

This is an illness in which tissues in the intestine become inflamed and start to die.

In questions to the Gauteng provincial legislature last year, it was revealed that more than 2000 newborns had died in Gauteng hospitals.

The Star

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