Baby deaths soar at George Mukhari – Jack Bloom

DA MPL not satisfied with MEC Bandile Masuku's explanations for increase

Baby deaths soar at George Mukhari hospital

25 November 2019

Baby deaths have soared at the George Mukhari Hospital in the last five years, rising from 232 deaths in 2013 to 302 deaths in 2018 even though the number of babies in neonatal ICU decreased from 2239 in 2013 to 1604 in 2018.

These figures are revealed today by Gauteng a Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to my questions which he has tweeted before it has been made public by the Legislature itself.

I am alarmed by the sharp rise in the percentage of deaths of babies in neonatal ICU which has nearly doubled from 10% in 2013 to 19% in 2018. According to Masuku: “Prematurity is the main reason for the increase in the number of deaths".

The number of babies admitted for prematurity has increased significantly from 27% of total admissions in 2013 to 44% of total admissions in 2018.

These premature babies are more prone to complications. They stay long in the ward and the management is more complex. I am also concerned that 140 babies died of klebsiella last year compared to 48 klebsiella deaths in 2013 - this is a three-fold increase!

Masuku says, however, that “The final cause of death in these patients would need a record review to make an accurate final cause of death.” He also says that this hospital “is the only centre where neonatal surgery is available for the North West and Limpopo provinces.

These patients stay long in the ward and are prone to complications including infections” and that “deaths in the NICU reflect conditions in the health system. Systems are in place to prevent infections and no definite source of Infection was identified at the time".

I am not satisfied with this response. The causes of the sharp rise in baby deaths should have received urgent attention and action taken particularly in the case of klebsiella which is linked to poor infection controls.

Although Masuku says that the wards are regularly cleaned, staff at the hospital have expressed concern to me that disinfection measures need to be improved.

We need accurate and speedy monitoring of the causes of baby deaths at this hospital to ensure that all avoidable deaths are prevented.

Issued by Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC, 25 November 2019