'Huge problems' at Chris Hani Baragwanath
Johannesburg - There are huge problems at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto, the national health department said on Wednesday.
"There are huge problems at Chris Hani. There are huge problems at the maternity unit," spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said.
He could not "categorise" these issues, but said the national and provincial health departments were talking with the hospital to resolve staff shortages.
"That's why nurses from [the SA National Defence Force] were deployed a few weeks ago to help out at the hospital."
He was responding to a report by Health E-news Service in The Star on Wednesday which cited a letter leaked to the newspaper from the hospital's head of obstetrics to his counterpart at the University of the Witwatersrand.
In the letter, Dr Eckhart Buchmann describes how staff shortages and overcrowding led to two avoidable infant deaths in the first two weeks of January alone.
Doctors reported brain damage in babies who were born asphyxiated and had not received treatment in time. Unhygienic conditions in the maternity wards, including maggots in the blood-soaked bedding, were also reported.
In early November the problem was exacerbated by the non-payment of the Khalipha Agency, which supplied additional nurses to the hospital. The agency was paid in late December.
The hospital's chief executive Johanna More reportedly said she was unaware of these cases and denied they were linked to staff shortages.
"Where were [the doctors] when these babies were dying? Where are these consultants? Spending time in conferences."
Influx of patients
Hadebe said one of the problems facing the hospital was that surrounding clinics were not functioning properly "and so people flock to Chris Hani".
The hospital was battling to keep up with the influx of patients.
Both the national and provincial health departments were taking up the non-payment of nursing agencies to ensure it did not happen again.
"The minister has also emphasised the training of nurses, particularly bedside training."
Both Hadebe and Gauteng health department spokesperson Simon Zwane said there was a national shortage of midwives.
Zwane said a number of midwives had been recruited despite the scarcity. They would begin work at the hospital in March.
DA spokesperson Jack Bloom said the conditions at the hospital would lead to "an avalanche of medical negligence claims" which would drain the health budget.
The provincial health department recently paid the first of three instalments to Prince Sibusiso Khanyi's parents. Khanyi was brain damaged through staff negligence at his birth in December 1999. The South Gauteng High Court ruled they be paid R9.25m in damages.
Zwane said: "There are plans in place that will ensure that doesn't happen."