Gauteng reports decline in deaths
Johannesburg - The number of mothers and babies dying during pregnancy and just after has declined in Gauteng, the provincial health department said on Monday.
Preliminary data for 2008 to 2011 showed the number of mothers dying during and after birth had dropped from 166 deaths per 100 000 to 144 deaths per 100 000.
Government has set a millennium goal target of 100 deaths per 100 000.
"The reduction in maternal deaths indicates the department is making encouraging progress," it said in a statement.
Data for the first quarter of this year also showed a drop in the number of babies dying just before or during birth.
The mortality rate for this category fell from 33.5 per 1 000 babies last year to 28.7 per 1 000 in the first quarter of this year.
The figures were contained in a report tabled before the Gauteng legislature health portfolio committee.
According to the report, the number of neonatal underweight or ill babies dying dropped from 11.7 per 100 to 10.5 per 100 in the same period.
Earlier this year, five babies died within five days in the Jubilee Hospital in Pretoria.
The babies were allegedly not put into incubators and could not keep warm.
Improvements at neonatal units
This was disputed by the hospital that said post mortems showed that the deaths were not a result of hospital mismanagement.
Last year, a group of experts was convened to investigate why six babies died around the same time at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg.
The babies contracted the norovirus and it was found that overcrowding, staff shortages, and lack of equipment contributed to their deaths.
On Monday, the department said there had been improvements made in neonatal units at Natalspruit, Charlotte Maxeke, and Jubilee hospitals.
Kangaroo mother care units had also been established in 23 out of 24 hospitals for the survival of premature babies.
Infection control had been improved by installing waterless antibacterial hand wash dispensers in neonatal wards at Dr George Mukhari Academic, Chris Hani-Baragwanath Academic, Charlotte Maxeke, Natalspruit, Pholosong, Far East Rand, and Sebokeng hospitals.
The department said reports showed there had been a slight increase in the number of mothers opting for caesarean operations.
This had increased from 27% to 28.7% in the last financial year.
"Delivery by caesarean section is important in reducing the risk of infecting new born babies with HIV if mothers did not receive antiretroviral therapy," the department said.