Klebsiella outbreak claims six babies

Monday, September 17, 2018

A bacterium known as Klebsiella pneumoniae has claimed the lives of six babies, according to the Gauteng Health Department.

Klebsiella infection is a common neonatal infection that affects babies in low and middle income countries like South Africa.

It is known to cause different types of healthcare-associated infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis, wound or surgical site infections.

Briefing the media on Sunday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said the outbreak at Thelle Mogoerane hospital in Vosloorus was found to be drug resistant.

According to an interim report by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), it was found that due to overcrowding, infection measures were compromised.

“Due to overcrowding infection control measures were compromised. Extreme overcrowding which creates conditions for the infection to take place and spread.

“The issue of overcrowding is of particular concern because all neonatal wards in the province were found to be overcrowded – on average 132% bed utilisation. In this hospital the NICD found that there were 90 neonates in a 61 bed capacity unit. The obvious is that we cannot turn any patient away because of overcrowding,” said the Minister.

To combat the issue of overcrowding, the provincial department announced that it mobilised the Nelson Mandela Children’s hospital (NMCH) and Charlotte Maxeke hospital (CMH).

“The only way to relieve overcrowding is to use other available facilities especially the low risk ones, in this case the Nelson Mandela Children’s hospital and Charlotte Maxeke hospital.

“We are all aware that as the NMCH has recently opened and are progressively admitting new patients but still has unused space. This is the space that we are planning to use to decant neonates from Thelle Mogoerane,” said Motsoaledi. 

The Minister said the Gauteng Province needs at least six more hospitals to decrease overcrowding at facilities.

“In addition, we are concerned about the design of the neonatal, antenatal, postnatal, labour ward and theatre. The passage from these wards to theatre passes through the neonatal ward adding to the risk and this is an undesirable situation,” he said. 

The transfer of patients and their mothers to NMCH and CMH will give the provincial department an opportunity to scrub down and decontaminate the environment and address the structural issues without any disturbance. 

“The already established Gauteng neonatal clinical governance team will plan the decanting. This team will also assess the risk and benefits for every step to be taken for each baby. This is because it may be risky to transport sick neonates from one place to another but is may be equally risky to leave these babies in a vulnerable environment,” said the Minister. 

The NICD and National Health Laboratory Service will be on hand to give support during the transfer process. - SAnews.gov.za