3 832 deaths in Gauteng hospitals were 'largely avoidable', DA claims

A total of 3 832 patients died last year in Gauteng public hospitals.
A total of 3 832 patients died last year in Gauteng public hospitals.

A total of 3 832 patients died last year in Gauteng public hospitals as a result of 10 741 serious adverse events (SAEs), which "largely arise from avoidable medical negligence", the DA said on Wednesday. 

This information was disclosed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to DA Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom's questions in the Gauteng legislature.

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An SAE is defined as an event that results in unintended harm to the patient by an act of commission or omission rather than by the underlying disease or condition of the patient.

According to Bloom, hospitals with the most recorded SAEs were:

- Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital: 1 763;

- Steve Biko Hospital: 893;

- George Mukhari Hospital: 766;

- Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital: 722;

- Helen Joseph Hospital 644;

- Thelle Mogoerane Hospital: 625;

- Tembisa Hospital: 517;

- Sebokeng Hospital: 511;

- Weskoppies Hospital: 504;

- Kopanong Hospital: 415;

- Bertha Gxowa Hospital: 409;

- Tambo Memorial Hospital: 393;

- Rahima Moosa Hospital: 385;

- Kalafong Hospital: 345;

- Leratong Hospital: 323.

"I am most concerned by the 2 307 recorded deaths of newborn babies and 238 maternal deaths," Bloom said on Wednesday. 

"There were also 866 septic Caesarean sections and 1 148 cases of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy which causes brain damage to children deprived of oxygen."

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Another indication of poor care, according to Bloom, is the 1 052 cases of hospital-acquired pressure sores which are reported as SAEs "as they have direct impact on the patient's average length of stay in hospital, increase cost of treatment and may lead to body disfigurement".

Bloom said despite the high number of SAEs, only 77 cases were referred for disciplinary action.

"These figures are highly disturbing. They highlight severe management problems in public hospitals and lack of consequence for medical mistakes which leads to court cases and huge payouts that drain the health budget.

"This is further evidence of public sector incompetence that would doom the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) which is administratively very complex," Bloom said.

Gauteng health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said it was misleading to claim that the deaths were caused by negligence. 

"Serious adverse events are not necessarily medical negligence. Cases of medical negligence have to proven, it is very careless and irresponsible of the DA to equate medical serious adverse events to medical negligence," Kekana told News24. 

Kekana explained that an allergic reaction to anaesthesia is considered a serious adverse event and does not imply negligence at all. 

"In the last financial year, the Gauteng Department of Health had over 21m patients that were seen in various facilities across the province, and of this number 0.057% were serious adverse incidents," Kekana said. 

"In the first quarter (April 1 to June 30, 2019) of this current financial year, already over 1.6m patients were seen in Gauteng public health facilities, and 0.0016% of those cases resulted in serious adverse events.

"Serious adverse cases identified in any of the facilities are reported within 24 hours of occurrence, investigated immediately and then presented to the facility patient safety incident committee. The case is then presented at the mortality and morbidity meeting for clinical review depending on the severity of each case, this is done in order to identity gaps in patient care and develop a quality improvement plan," Kekana said. 

*This article has been edited since publication to reflect Kekana's comments. The headline has also been changed as it attributed all the deaths to negligence, which is misleading. 

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