Investigation after five babies die at Jo'burg hospital

Five babies died of diarrhoea at the Charlotte Maxeke state hospital in Johannesburg on Wednesday, the Gauteng health department said, sparking authorities to prohibit the hospital from admitting any patients to the unit.

“We will investigate what the causes are, why it was not prevented, whether it could have been prevented and if someone can be held responsible for it,” spokesperson Simon Zwane said.

He could not immediately say what symptoms—except for diarrhoea and dehydration—the babies showed. Other babies in the ward, as well as patients elsewhere in the hospital, were not showing any of
the same symptoms.

“The other babies are fine, but we are going to move them to another ward in case there is some sort of contamination.”

Zwane said nurses noticed the diarrhoea, and tried to treat it.

“Interventions were made, but because of the age of the babies and the underdevelopment of their systems it is difficult to contain the diarrhoea.”

Provincial health minister Qedani Mahlangu said she was shocked by the deaths and ordered the investigation.

“This does not augur well for our target of reducing infant mortality in our province,” she said in a statement.

“It points to the need to take more measures to improve infection control in all hospitals.”

The investigation was already underway, Zwane said.

“I don’t think it will take long. It should be over within the next two weeks,” he said.

The hospital was earmarked to treat emergencies during the Soccer world cup.—Sapa

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