A stakeholders meeting on January 6 discussed problems which included overcrowding in the ward, staff shortages, and inappropriate equipment storage.
Following the death of 10 babies after the outbreak of a highly drug-resistant bacteria in Tembisa hospital’s neonatal unit, the Gauteng health department has rolled out emergency measures to prevent further deaths and contain the spread of the bug.
The department confirmed that there has been an outbreak of carbapenem-resistant enterobacterales (CRE) at the hospital. CRE belongs to a family of bacteria which can cause serious infections such as pneumonia and meningitis.
Health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said measures have been taken to prevent further infections in the neonatal unit.
These include the deployment of additional nurses, sending new admissions to the Kalafong Hospital in Atteridgeville and Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, and allocating additional resources to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) to develop a dashboard to monitor laboratory-confirmed neonatal infections at the facility level.
They have also been instructed to create a quality improvement plan, which will be implemented with immediate effect.
A stakeholders meeting which consisted of Hospital Services Directorate, a Tshwane District Microbiology team and staff from the NICD was convened on 6 January to discuss problems of overcrowding in the ward, staff shortages, infrastructure, inappropriate equipment storage, and difficulty in isolating infected infants.
About 17 cases of CRE were reported between 1 and 31 November, leading to the babies’ deaths.
Carbapenem-resistant enterobacterales graphic: Costa Mokola.
The NICD yesterday said that CRE were bacteria that were resistant to the carbapenem group of antibiotics.
Carbapenems are a class of highly effective antibiotics, usually used to treat severe or high-risk bacterial infections, and are usually reserved as the last line of defence for multidrug-resistant bacterial infections.
According to the department, it was initially suspected that the organism responsible for this outbreak was Klebsiella pneumoniae, another gram-negative bacteria.
Gram-negative bacteria are commonly found in the gut of humans and can cause a variety of infections such as skin and soft tissue infections, urinary tract infections, meningitis, pneumonia and bloodstream infections in both community and hospital settings.
The bacteria can be spread through person-to-person contact or contaminated hands of healthcare personnel, or other persons.