Baby deaths increase at Tembisa Hospital

Despite a lower number of deliveries, baby deaths have increased in the last three years at the Tembisa Hospital, with 280 deaths in 2022, up from 271 deaths in 2021, and 237 deaths in 2020.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

A total of 50 661 babies were born at the hospital in this period (17 122 in 2020, 17 054 in 2021, and 16 485 in 2022).

The causes given for the 788 baby deaths are due to infections, immaturity related, hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and congenital anomalies.

I am concerned that the percentage of deaths from infections has risen to 37%, which is much higher than the 25.1% infection deaths in 2020. Hypoxia deaths are also up to 15.2%, compared to 11% last year and 14.8% the year before. This is a disturbing upward trend in deaths from causes that could probably have been avoided with better care.

There are currently 32 vacant posts in the neo-natal and maternity wards, and alarming equipment shortages that include the following:

• 1 x EEG machine
• 2 x therapeutic cooling machines
• 1 x MRI scan
• 2 x iStat machines for urgent ABG +Electrolytes
• 1 x Ultrasound machine with Cranial and Cardiac Probes
• 15 x infant weighing scales

There is also a shortage of consumables for all critical care equipment e.g. oscillator/ventilator circuits.

The Department claims “there is no definitive cases of negligence established”, but admits to “an issue of resource constraints due to issue of overwhelming number of patients.”

As in the case of baby deaths at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, they seem to be in denial that many babies could have been saved if there were adequate staff and equipment.

Tembisa Hospital has been rocked by scandal due to massive irregular and wasted spending amounting to R1 billion over the last three years according to a SIU report.

This shows that it is not a shortage of money, but a shortage of competent and honest management that dooms many babies to death from avoidable causes.

I will continue to campaign for full accountability for the management disaster at Tembisa Hospital, which needs to prioritise patients, not greedy thieves and incapable people.