Time to clean up their act

Once again our health minister has shot herself in the foot by exonerating the staff at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal for the outbreak of Klebsiella.

Once again our health minister has shot herself in the foot by exonerating the staff at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal for the outbreak of Klebsiella.

So far five babies have died in this outbreak. But Health Minister Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang says: Don't blame my hospital officials.

We do.

Klebsiella is a widespread bacterium, but it has no place in a hospital. We know full well that Prince Mshiyeni Hospital is under-resourced and overcrowded. We also know that the nurses and doctors are overstretched.

But that is no excuse for lax infection control.

Medical staff are expected to wash and sterilise their hands each time they tend a patient, especially newborn babies and others with inadequate immune systems.

Every time they don't, they fail themselves, their calling and their patients.

We have known these dangers for the past 160 years.

Florence Nightingale and her band of overworked nurses discovered the horrific cost of inadequate hygiene while tending wounded soldiers in the Crimean War.

She founded modern nursing with the realisation that a nurse's first responsibility is to cause no harm. And the most elementary way of achieving that is by a nurse washing her hands before she ministers to her patients.

We expect no less. Neither should the minister.

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