CRE outbreak and 10 baby deaths in Gauteng Hospital blamed on overcrowding

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Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku has blamed a Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) outbreak at the Tembisa Hospital, where 10 babies died, on overcrowding. Masuku said that most of the resources at the hospital’s neonatal unit were stretched but the outbreak was now under control.

Masuku is quoted in an Eyewitness News report as saying: “It is one of the most difficult infections to treat. Currently, we are managing the seven (babies) that are still alive and we’ve put into place systems to ensure that the outbreak doesn’t continue and that it is contained in the neonatal unit. More admissions have been diverted to Steve Biko and other surrounding neonatal units.”

Masuku has spoken on the measures being taken to contain the situation at Gauteng hospitals on eNCA.

According to a report in The South African, Jack Bloom, the shadow health MEC in the province, has shared his concern that “overcrowding and a lack of cleanliness” may lead to a further spread of the disease.

“I am horrified at the deaths of 10 babies at the Tembisa Hospital due to a suspected Klebsiella outbreak. The facility is notoriously overcrowded, and the 44-bed neonatal unit often admits more than double that number of babies. We need to know why the public were not informed earlier and what accountability there will be for these deaths. Overcrowding and poor hygiene measures are a major problem in neonatal units in Gauteng hospitals. How many more babies will die before effective measures are taken at all hospitals? It is no use waking up after the tragedy when babies have already died.”

The report says those most likely to be affected are female, and patients who have been on a drip or those using breathing apparatus during a stay in hospital become more vulnerable to the disease.

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, reports The Star.

In questions to the Gauteng provincial legislature last year, the report said it was revealed that more than 2,000 newborns had died in Gauteng hospitals.

Gauteng Health had earlier confirmed that 10 babies died at Tembisa Hospital’s neonatal unit between November and December last year, due the CRE outbreak, reports News24. Gauteng Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said CRE was difficult to treat because it has a high resistance to antibiotics and can cause deadly infections in the bloodstream, lungs and urinary tract, including pneumonia and meningitis and the hospital, like many others in the province, had to grapple with the challenge of ever-increasing demands for services.

The department said the 10 babies were among the 17 cases recorded at the Tembisa Hospital’s neonatal unit in November and December last year, reports The Times.

The department said the following measures had been taken to prevent further infections in the neonatal unit: a quality improvement plan has been created and implemented with immediate effect; additional professional nurses have been deployed to help at the neonatal unit; approval to divert new admissions to the Kalafong Hospital and Steve Biko Academic Hospital has been granted in principle; an external infection prevention and control audit is to be conducted on a date to be provided by the provincial quality assurance directorate; the national health laboratory services infection control service is to provide technical support assistance to audit Gauteng Health neonatal units; and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) is to allocate resources to develop a dashboard to monitor laboratory confirmed neonatal infections at facility level.

Full Eyewitness News report

eNCA YouTube video

Full report in The South African

Full report in The Star

Full News24 report

Full report in The Times

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