Faulty incubators a death risk

The five died because they were not put into incubators and could not keep warm, according to a hospital source who asked not to be named as she feared being victimized.

Four of the hospital’s six incubators are broken, while the remaining two are faulty and do not regulate heat properly.
Two babies died on Monday, two more on Tuesday and the fifth in the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to the source.

Meanwhile, two other premature babies sustained burn wounds last week – either from the faulty incubators or from hot water bottles. One baby is still in the hospital while the other has been discharged but the mother has to bring the baby back regularly to get new wound dressings.

A hospital source said that the two babies had been burnt by the faulty incubators which had become overheated. However, nurses told the babies’ mothers that their children had been burnt by hot water bottles. 

“The incubators were off because the electricity was off, and we had to warm the blankets on a heater to keep the babies warm, and the babies sustained burns from the blanket,” claimed one nurse.

The sobbing 23-year-old mother of one of the babies said that the excitement of having her first child had been shattered when her child’s leg and arm had been badly burnt.

 “Babies die here almost on a daily basis and I think it is because of the cold,” said another mother.  “Something has to be done here immediately to save our babies.”

Premature babies often can’t keep themselves warm without help, so an incubator is crucial for their survival. Incubators also protect premature babies from infection, noise and light, and also provide humidified air to maintain skin integrity in very premature babies. 

Four incubators in the premature babies’ unit have been broken for weeks and the remaining two are faulty, according to a hospital source. This has been reported to the hospital authorities but nothing has been done to repair them.

Gauteng health spokesperson Dr Sello Mokoena said he was saddened by the babies’ deaths and sent condolences to the families.  However, he said that the hospital’s CEO, Damaria Magano, had denied that the five babies had died as a result of “poor management.”

“The deaths of the five babies are still being investigated by the province’s Quality Control Unit.

Mokoena said that the CEO was also looking into the issue of the faulty incubators, and acknowledged that management was trying to address a number of resource challenges.

A nurse, who asked not to be named as she feared losing her job, said that the hospital was seriously under-resourced and this was affecting patient care.

Read this and other health-related articles on Health-e.

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