Nine ba­bies’ deaths: hospi­tal ad­mits fault

We vi­o­lated pa­tients’ rights – Rahima Moosa

Sowetan - - News - By Naledi Shange

A Jo­han­nes­burg hospi­tal has con­ceded that it vi­o­lated pa­tients’ rights to qual­ity health­care af­ter nine ba­bies died there ear­lier this year.

Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospi­tal man­age­ment met Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion of­fi­cials yes­ter­day.

The com­mis­sion’s re­gional man­ager, Buang Jones‚ speak­ing at the hospi­tal af­ter an in­spec­tion of the neona­tal wards‚ said the fa­cil­ity had ad­mit­ted fault dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion be­hind closed doors ear­lier in the day.

“From the in­for­ma­tion that we have gleaned thus far‚ the hospi­tal has vi­o­lated the right of ac­cess to health. There are a num­ber of other in­ter­re­lated rights they have vi­o­lated‚ but they have vi­o­lated the right to ac­cess health­care and sec­tion 28 of the con­sti­tu­tion‚ which says that the best in­ter­ests of chil­dren are of para­mount im­por­tance‚” said Jones.

The nine chil­dren who died were re­ported to have had necro­tis­ing en­te­ro­col­i­tis – a con­di­tion which oc­curs mostly in pre­ma­ture new­borns and af­fects their in­testines.

Jones said that, ac­cord­ing to the hospi­tal’s au­thor­i­ties, the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­eases had yet to es­tab­lish the ori­gin of the out­break. “The re­port is that they can­not find the ac­tual cause of the deaths of the ba­bies‚” Jones said.

While the deaths were ini­tially re­ported to have hap­pened be­tween April and July‚ hospi­tal man­age­ment main­tained that the deaths had oc­curred over one year.

No other fa­tal­i­ties had been re­ported since then‚ al­though one of the ba­bies re­mained hos­pi­talised.

Jones said hospi­tal man­age­ment had com­plained of chal­lenges at the fa­cil­ity‚ in­clud­ing staff short­ages‚ a lack of equip­ment‚ space and beds.

Man­age­ment also com­plained of a high ab­sen­teeism rate as staff were de-mo­ti­vated and over­worked due to the ra­tio of pa­tients per nurse.

Rahima Moosa, in Corona­tionville, was built decades ago to serve peo­ple nearby but has seen an in­flux of pa­tients from all over Jo­han­nes­burg.

It does not have an in­ten­sive care unit for pa­tients‚ a lab­o­ra­tory ser­vice or 24-hour blood bank on site.

Ap­prox­i­mately 13 000 ba­bies are de­liv­ered at the hospi­tal a year‚ trans­lat­ing into nearly 1 100 ba­bies a month.

Jones said since the out­break‚ the hospi­tal had re­in­forced its hy­giene man­age­ment process and in­formed staff to take ex­tra pre­cau­tions.

Mean­while, an out­break of kleb­siella (a bac­terium which causes res­pi­ra­tory, uri­nary and wound in­fec­tions) killed six in­fants at Thelle Mo­go­er­ane Hospi­tal in Vosloorus on the East Rand re­cently.

Health sec­tor trade union Hospersa spokesper­son Kevin Halama said staff short­ages were a ma­jor prob­lem.

“When we are talk­ing about the qual­ity of health­care that is be­ing de­liv­ered, there are those in­stances where lives are lost un­nec­es­sar­ily be­cause of pres­sure that is on the sys­tems.

“Equip­ment is also not be­ing ser­viced at a num­ber of fa­cil­i­ties. Some of the hos­pi­tals are over­crowded‚ mainly be­cause there is poor plan­ning from gov­ern­ment’s side‚” he said.

Halama said the birth of any child was sup­posed to be a happy mo­ment for a fam­ily.

He echoed Jones’s words when he said va­cant posts were not be­ing filled. “From the gov­ern­ment side I don’t know where is the brains be­hind the plan­ning of maternity wards and mak­ing sure that these wards are well-equipped.”

Demo­cratic Nurs­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion of SA spokesper­son Si­bongiseni Delih­lazo also said there was a short­age of nurses. “It is not rare in our days to find a nurse that is work­ing there alone look­ing af­ter 27 ba­bies.

“It is sad that only when ba­bies die then the coun­try must be alarmed. The is­sue of short­ages of nurses in par­tic­u­lar is a tick­ing time bomb in the coun­try. More lives will be lost un­nec­es­sar­ily.”

The Gaut­eng depart­ment of health had not re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

Rahima Moosa au­thor­i­ties say the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­eases is yet to es­tab­lish the ori­gin of necro­tis­ing en­te­ro­col­i­tis, which led to the deaths of nine new­borns.

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