MEC refutes high baby deaths at KZN hospital

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pretoria - KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has dismissed claims that 400 babies have this year died at the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital.

Dr Dhlomo said there had been confusion over the numbers in the report released by the Democratic Alliance in the provincial legislature on Tuesday.

The report claimed that more than half of the babies died of Tuberculosis and HIV followed by low birth weight. It further blamed poor facilities in maternity wards at public hospitals for the high infant mortality rate.

However, Dr Dhlomo said the total number of deliveries was 5 536 with the total deaths in maternity services at 154.

"The total number of deaths in maternity services, including fresh still births and macerated still births, as from January to September 2009, is 154. The perinatal mortality rate for the same period is 39.3 per 1000.

In 2008, the perinatal mortality rate for Mahatma Gandhi Hospital was 44 per 1000, including babies born with birth weights of less than 1kg and was 32.2 per 1000 with babies of birth weights of 1kg and above," Dr Dhlomo explained.

He said during the Infection Control Inspections for the last four quarters, Mahatma Gandhi Hospital had scored 92 percent for the first quarter and 85 percent in all the other quarters.

There was also no current threat of an infection related outbreak at Mahatma Gandhi Hospital.

He noted that the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in particular, reflected on pregnant mothers' level of access to perinatal care as the majority of deaths under the age of one year occur in the perinatal period, which is within the first seven days of life.

"Secondly, the IMR serves as a good indication of the socio-economic conditions under which people live, it is therefore important for monitoring inequalities in socio-economic conditions and access to health-care services specifically," said Dr Dhlomo.

He said the department was pleased that the hospital, on its own accord, was addressing the maternal care service problems together with non-governmental organizations.

"We hope that we would learn from them to improve maternal care services throughout the province," said Dr Dhlomo.