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10 babies confirmed dead after deadly outbreak in Tembisa hospital

20 January 2020 - 11:13 By Nonkululeko Njilo
Ten babies have died as a result of an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant bacteria at Tembisa hospital
Ten babies have died as a result of an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant bacteria at Tembisa hospital
Image: 123RF/Dario Lo Presti

The department of health in Gauteng on Monday confirmed that at least 10 babies had died as a result of a carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales (CRE) outbreak in Tembisa.   

The bacteria is said to be a part of a family of germs which have been difficult to treat because of high levels of resistance to antibiotics.

“They can cause deadly infections in your bloodstream, lungs and urinary tract, including pneumonia and meningitis,” said the department's spokesperson, Kwara Kekana.

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.

“It is suspected the organism responsible for this outbreak was Klebsiella pneumonia,” she said.

Kekana said the hospital, like many others in the province, had to grapple with the challenge of ever-increasing demands 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.

The department said following the deadly outbreak, a stakeholders' meeting was convened to the discuss challenges of overcrowding in the ward, a staff shortage, infrastructure, inappropriate equipment storage and difficulties in isolating infected infants.

It 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 department of health neonatal units.
  • The national institure for communicable diseases is to allocate resources to develop a dashboard to monitor laboratory confirmed neonatal infections at facility level.