The Gauteng Department of Health says an interim report has revealed that “extreme overcrowding” played a major factor in the spreading of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria Klebsiella Pneumonia at the Thelle Mogoerane Hospital in Vosloorus.
A report by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) found that due to the overcrowding, control measures were compromised.
The NICD also found that 90 newborn babies were placed in a ward with a capacity of 61.
“The issue of overcrowding is of particular concern because all neonatal wards in the province were found to be overcrowded – on average, 132% bed utilisation,” Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi said.
Motsoaledi and Gauteng MEC for Health Gwen Ramokgopa visited the hospital on Sunday afternoon.
The report further found that “low birth-weight babies due to prematurity, driven by a multitude of social factors, among which are teenage pregnancy, HIV and poor socio-economic conditions”.
In an attempt to curb the outbreak, the hospital grouped affected babies and delegated staff to look after them.
Infection control was intensified and new baby admissions were kept in a separate area.
Two babies died at the hospital – one in July and the second one in August – when they contracted the bacterial infection.
Motsoaledi said the outbreak was contained at the unit where babies were infected in the past.
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He said the Gauteng province needed six more new hospitals to deal with the overcrowding.
The only available facilities were the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.
Motsoaledi said the unused space at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital is expected to be used for the newborns from Thelle Mogoerane Hospital.
“Premature babies are always vulnerable to infections and overcrowding exacerbates the situation. In addition, we are concerned about the design of the neonatal, antenatal, postnatal, labour ward and theatre.
“The passage from these wards to theatre passes through the neonatal ward, adding to the risk, and this is an undesirable situation,” he said.
A plan to transfer the patients is already in place, Motsoaledi said.