The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has said that Tembisa Hospital in Gauteng is in dire need of staff following a CRE outbreak that caused the death of 10 babies in November and December 2019.
According to EWN, the commission visited the hospital on Monday 27 January after an outbreak of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) spread through the neo-natal ward last year.
It has not ruled out the prospect that gross negligence may have led to the spread of the bacteria.
Gauteng SAHRC head Buang Jones said most of the hospital’s problems could be solved by hiring more staff.
“You need cleaners for hygiene. They have one cleaner per ward, which is not enough, and they need more nurses. They ideally need 57 nurses for the neo-natal ward, but they only have six professional nurses. This is not enough,” said Jones.
He said the hospital promised to start hiring more people from February 2020.
According to SABC News, the SAHRC was told that the neo-natal ward with roughly 60 beds, sometimes accommodates more than 100 mothers. The Tembisa Hospital is expected to deliver periodical reports to the SAHRC regarding any outbreaks.
How the CRE outbreak occurred at Tembisa Hospital
A statement released on Monday 20 January explained that the babies succumbed to the infection over a two-month period, with figures available until 31 December 2019. The 44-bed neonatal unit is often overcrowded, and staff has previously complained about their working conditions:
“We can confirm that 17 cases of CRE bacteremia were reported from 1 November to 31 December 2019 which sadly resulted in the deaths of 10 babies,” said the Gauteng health department.
“It was suspected that the organism responsible for this outbreak was Klebsiella pneumonia. They can cause deadly infections in your bloodstream, lungs and urinary tract, including pneumonia and meningitis,” it added.
What is CRE?
Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae is the name given to the bacteria which can resist the effects of antibiotics. This disease is able to produce enzymes which successfully disable the drug itself. It’s believed that half of all patients who contract CRE die as a result.
The bacteria tend to thrive in care facilities. If medical equipment isn’t cleaned properly, it can be a breeding ground for CRE. The infection is viral and it can be passed from person to person.
Those most likely to be affected are female, and patients who have been on a drip or those using breathing apparatus during a stay in the hospital become more vulnerable to CRE.