Ten babies have died at a Gauteng hospital following an outbreak of bacteria resistant to most antibiotics, especially at healthcare facilities.
The Tembisa hospital in Gauteng has been hardest hit by Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), with 10 new-borns losing their lives in the neonatal unit, the Gauteng health department said.
According to the centre for disease control and prevention, Enterobacteriaceae are a large family of different types of germs (bacteria) that commonly cause infections in healthcare settings.
On Monday, the Gauteng health department confirmed that 17 cases of CRE bacteraemia were reported between 1 November, to 31 December 2019.
“This sadly resulted in deaths of 10 babies. It was suspected that the organism responsible for this outbreak was Klebsiella pneumoniae,” said Kwara Kekana, spokesperson for health MEC.
“CRE are a family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics. They can cause deadly infections in your bloodstream, lungs and urinary tract, including pneumonia and meningitis,” he said.
Kekana said a meeting with the stakeholders was convened on the 6 January 2020, “to discuss challenges of overcrowding in the ward, staff shortage, infrastructure, and inappropriate equipment storage and difficult in isolating infected infants”.
Kekana said the following measures have been taken by the health department to prevent further infections in the neonatal unit:
- A quality improvement plan has been created and implemented with immediate effect.
- Additional professional nurses have been deployed to assist at the neonatal unit.
- Approval to divert new admissions to the Kalafong hospital and Steve Biko academic hospital has been granted in principle.
- The external infection prevention and control audit to be conducted on the date to be provided by provincial quality assurance directorate.
- National Health Laboratory Services infection control service to provide technical support assistance to audit Gauteng department of health neonatal units.
- NICD to allocate resources to develop a dashboard to monitor laboratory confirmed neonatal infections at facility level.
“Tembisa hospital like many other health facilities in the province is faced with the challenge of ever-increasing demand for services. The 44-bed neonatal unit often admits close to 90 patients.
“While the department is looking at improving the hospital infrastructure, it is doing its utmost best to serve patients with respect and dignity,” Kekana said.
Symptoms of CRE include:
– Severe pneumonia
– Severe urinary tract infection
– High fever
– Life-threatening infection (sepsis)