'No amends for Klebsiella babies'

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

The families of the five babies who died of Klebsiella at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi will not be formally compensated for the deaths and their loss.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang revealed this when she made a brief visit to the hospital following the outbreak of Klebsiella there .

The five babies died because nurses allegedly ignored the health care hygiene rule which demands that staff should wash their hands before touching each newborn baby.

The provincial health department has refused to put the blame on its staffers for the deaths.

Tshabalala-Msimang said there would be no formal compensation to the families of the victims because there was no one to blame for the deaths.

"By compensating the families we would be taking the blame for what had happened here," she said.

She blamed the deaths on the lack of staff and overcrowding in government hospitals.

"The way the hospital is designed, the beds at the nursery are too close together and the shortage of space poses the risk of spreading of diseases.

"A decision to look at ways of creating more space has been put on the table," she said.

Tshabalala-Msimang said lack of resources was a national issue that all government departments were facing.

"We need more roads, more schools and more resources.

"This is an issue surrounding all departments and not just the Health Department," she said.

Nine babies were reported to have been infected with Klebsiella. Of them five have died, while the two who survived are recovering in the same ward.

The other two who are feared to have been affected have not had their status confirmed yet and are still awaiting their test results.

All the affected babies were born prematurely with a weight of between 1,1kg and 2kg.

"Premature babies are at a higher risk of getting infected with bacteria such as Klebsiella and nurses have to work very hard on them," said the minister.

An average of 1200 babies are born at the hospital each month.

This is not the first time that the province has been hit by Klebsiella. In 2005 22 babies died from the bacteria at Mahatma Gandhi hospital.

Prince Mshiyeni Hospital is the largest in the area, and serves a population of about 1,6million people.

It delivers an average of 1200 babies every month.

Pregnant women receiving their antenatal care at the hospital and those waiting to give birth said the discovery of the deadly bacteria at the institution had left them in fear.

A woman who did not want to be named and who was due for delivery said she would have to take a huge risk and give birth there. "I don't have any choice but to give birth here," she said.