Heal our hospitals, please

The writer says it's unacceptable that babies die because their parents are poor and rely on the public health system.
The writer says it's unacceptable that babies die because their parents are poor and rely on the public health system.
Image: Tyler Olson/ 123RF.com

How many more babies must die before the Gauteng health department deals with overcrowding in its hospitals?

This week it was confirmed that 10 babies had died after an outbreak of a bacterial infection at Tembisa Hospital in Ekurhuleni.

Overcrowding has once again been blamed for spreading the disease, carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), through the neonatal ward between November and December.

"Tembisa Hospital, like many other health facilities in the province, is faced with the challenge of ever-increasing demand for services," Gauteng health spokesperson Philane Mhlungu is quoted in today's edition.

He said the 44-bed neonatal unit regularly admits about 90 patients. Seven more babies were reported to have been treated for the infection.

This is not the first outbreak to claim lives of infants in the province's hospitals.

Nine babies died at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital after a necrotising enterocolitis outbreak in 2018.

The same year, six infants were killed by a Klebsiella pneumoniae outbreak at Thelle Mogoerane Hospital in Vosloorus.

Overcrowding and poor hygiene conditions in neonatal wards were said to be the main causes behind both outbreaks. That brings us to 25 babies who died in a space of two years because of conditions that could have been prevented.

After all the investigations undertaken in the two cases in 2018, nobody was held to account for the deaths. Public facilities are still overcrowded.

The latest 10 deaths will also be probed, but life will carry on as normal, until another batch of newborns die under similar circumstances and then there would be outrage.

We have known for years now that public health facilities are admitting close to double the number of pregnant women they should take. How long will it take to build more facilities? How many more babies must die before more facilities are provided?

Why must the babies die because their parents are poor and rely on the public health system?

The right to access to health care is for everyone in the constitution. The health department must be held liable for failing poor citizens.

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