News24

11 babies die at Joburg hospital

2010-05-20 18:03

Johannesburg - The Gauteng health department has confirmed the deaths of 11 babies, several of them not yet born, at the Natalspruit Hospital in Katlehong, the SABC reported on Thursday.

However, health MEC Qedani Mahlangu refuted suggestions that the deaths could be linked to an outbreak of diarrhoea at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, where six babies died.

"Four of the babies were dead for 48-hours in their mothers' wombs by the time they arrived at hospital," Mahlangu said.

"The next three babies died eight hours before their mothers arrived and the other two were born, but weighed less than 500g."

"They were too small," she said.

The last two babies were born at normal weight.

Investigation

Mahlangu said the causes of the deaths would be investigated.

The department also refuted earlier media reports that a baby died in its mother's arms while waiting in a queue at the hospital.

"The department would like to refute these allegations as untrue and misleading."

"According to hospital records, the baby was brought to the hospital in an ambulance at 02:30 and was certified dead on arrival."

"The department wishes to urge media houses to report factually and to refrain from creating panic," spokesperson Mandla Sidu said.

A departmental team was sent to the hospital to investigate after a radio report.

Overcrowding

Meanwhile, 35 babies were moved to a new ward at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic hospital on Thursday after it was confirmed that the neo-natal ward was overcrowded.

There were 50 babies in the ward for premature babies weighing less than 1kg - 15 more than the prescribed maximum, Mahlangu told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

"It is a space constraint we face," she said.

The first baby to get diarrhoea was still alive and doing well.

The National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) said it expected the department to take full responsibility for shoddy management and resourcing of these health facilities.

Health watchdog body

"We call for urgent investigations of all these cases and that appropriate action be taken against those found to be directly responsible," said spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

The union demanded that the department start implementing all of its proposals, like establishing a health watchdog body to "set national standards for both public and private health facilities".

"The reality is that our hospitals are understaffed, poorly equipped, under resourced and overburdened."

"This, combined with poor remuneration creates disillusionment and depression of some health practitioners, which then results in cases of neglect and all other identified problems," Pamla said.

Nehawu also called on all members to expose any untoward behaviour at hospitals, adopt a spirit of service and "serve our people with dignity, integrity and respect".