Baby deaths: Motsoaledi apologises

2010-05-24 14:20

Johannesburg - Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi on Monday apologised to the country for the deaths of 17 babies at two Gauteng hospitals this month.

"I want to apologise publicly to the country as a whole because of this tragedy," he told reporters at a press briefing at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic hospital - where six babies died last week.

"This past week has been traumatic, nobody wants to see babies die... when you see a very small coffin, your emotions can't be controlled."

Eleven babies died at the Natalspruit hospital in Katlehong on Johannesburg's East Rand - ten babies were lost on May 11 and one more baby was lost on May 12.

Infection control, overcrowding

Motsoaledi said even though investigations into the deaths were still being conducted, infection control and overcrowding played a role.

"... there was definitely a lapse in infection control... when we establish an office of standard compliance we will find out.

"Infection control cannot happen when there is overcrowding."

Motsoaledi pointed out that HIV and Aids was central to the problem.

"Unless we deal with this problem, it is going to trouble us again," he said, adding that he could not say whether any of the babies had been HIV positive.

"... and I'm not proposing that the babies who died [were HIV positive], but it's part of the equation."


The minister confirmed that 20 000 babies were stillborn per year, 22 000 babies died as newborns and between 1 400 and 1 600 mothers died shortly after giving birth.

"Forty-three percent of these deaths [are linked to] HIV/Aids.

"To reduce this number you need to put every child on treatment [no matter what] their CD4 count is."

Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu said that the team investigating the deaths had up to May 31 to discover the cause of the deaths.

"We avoided getting people from Charlotte Maxeke on our team... if they need more time by the 31st, they have to tell us why in order to receive it."

The investigation would also include a timeline of the deaths.