Severe overcrowding and understaffing have led to a hygiene crisis, which resulted in the superbug outbreak that killed two babies at a hospital in Vosloorus after several infections were reported at the facility, the Democratic Alliance has said.
Initial media reports indicated that five babies had died, but according to the Gauteng department of health, in total seven babies were infected with the antibiotic-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria at Thelle Mogoerane Hospital.
The hospital’s chief executive, Nomonde Mqhayi-Mbambo, told the DA that the first case was identified on July 9, with one of the babies dying in that month, and another this month.
According to the DA’s Gauteng shadow health MEC, Jack Bloom, the remaining five babies have been isolated and are treated.
The department confirmed the outbreak yesterday, saying samples had been sent to a laboratory to establish the source of the deadly outbreak. The hospital claims to have taken proactive measures by strengthening infection prevention and control and closely monitoring the unit.
But Bloom said, after a visit to the hospital yesterday, he was concerned that severe overcrowding and staff shortages contributed to the deaths.
“There is much unhappiness among the staff at this hospital who’ve presented a memorandum of grievances to hospital management,” he said. “The Gauteng health department needs to thoroughly probe the Klebsiella infection and fix the underlying problems at this troubled hospital.”
Despite the occurrence of similar multi-drug resistant bacteria outbreaks at other hospitals across South Africa recently, the national health department spokesperson, Popo Maja, said the outbreak was not being dealt with at national level.
“We have not escalated the issue nationally. For now it is being regarded as an internal issue.”
Maja said the department had set guidelines for preventing such outbreaks for which provincial authorities were responsible.
Klebsiella pneumoniae is one of two bacteria that, according to academic studies, have emerged as a major cause of healthcare-associated infections in several countries because of their resistance to anti-bacterial, microbial agents.
Professor Mark Sonderup, vice-chairperson of SA Medical Association, said: “Resistance is driven by the excessive or incorrect use of antibiotics. You will recall several years ago a similar episode in a neonatal unit in Durban [Addington] with Klebsiella where newborns died. Patient-to-patient spread in newborns can sadly be fatal.”
Acinetobacter infection often deadly
Earlier this month, The Citizen reported that a Pretoria man’s leg may have to be amputated, after he apparently contracted an Acinetobacter infection, following a knee operation at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
Studies done on Acinetobacter (a common infection found in healthcare facilities) and Klebsiella pneumoniae noted that the overuse or incorrect use of antimicrobials (such as antibiotics) was one of the main factors responsible for the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance, together with other causes.
Acinetobacter (AB) was selected as it is an emerging multidrug-resistant pathogen in healthcare settings, especially in the intensive care setting, according to the National Centre for Communicable Diseases.
Clinical manifestations of the bug range from pneumonia to serious blood or wound infections. Infections can cause bacteraemia, pneumonia, or ventilator-associated pneumonia, meningitis, urinary tract infection, central venous catheter-related infection, and wound infection.
AB infection typically occurs in very ill patients and can cause or contribute to death.
– news @citizen.co.za