The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has said that the Rahima Moosa Hospital is "in violation of infants' right to access to good quality healthcare", following an oversight visit to the hospital on Thursday.
"I think, from the information that we have claimed thus far, the hospital has violated the right of access to healthcare; they have also violated Section 28 of the Constitution which states that the best interests of children are of paramount importance," HRC Gauteng manager Buang Jones told the media at the hospital.
The HRC's visit was aimed at assessing the state of the hospital and determining what had led to the deaths of nine babies between March and July this year.
The hospital, according to the commission, acknowledged that the nine babies had died, but disputed reports that it was due to a bacterial outbreak.
"The underlying causes are still yet to be determined," Jones said.
The hospital, which was opened in 1944, has allegedly never been expanded and cannot deal with the high influx of patients.
"The hospital has a high vacancy rate, staff shortages and lack of equipment that is of poor quality. Even if these issues were addressed, it is very difficult to avoid an outbreak like this one, because they cannot pinpoint an actual cause.
"The hospital does not have enough beds, they deliver 13 000 babies per annum - 1 000 to 1 200 babies per month," Jones said.
While reports suggest that the hospital had initially failed to report the outbreak, management denies these claims.
"The hospital does not agree with reports that they failed to report the outbreak, and told us that 90% of the babies that died were [born] premature," Jones said.
HRC to supboena MEC, department head
The HRC, following its visit, has decided to subpoena Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa and health department head Mkhululi Lukhele.
"We'd like to find out from them what are they going to do about the lamentable state of hospitals in Gauteng. We have noted a pattern in challenges at the hospitals.
"We will demand accountability from the Gauteng provincial government," Jones said.
Details of the formal subpoena process will be announced in due course.