Gauteng health dept confirms Klebsiella pneumonia outbreak at Vosloorus hospital, after 2 babies die

The Gauteng Department of Health has confirmed a Klebsiella pneumonia outbreak at the Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital in Vosloorus, on the East Rand.

This follows the death of two babies after seven infants contracted a bacterial infection in the neonatal ward of the health facility in July.

Klebsiella pneumoniae is a bacterium that lives inside human intestines. It causes a range of diseases and is spread through direct person-to-person contact such as when someone with contaminated hands touches a wound.

People on ventilators can contract Klebsiella pneumonia if breathing tubes are contaminated with bacteria.

Symptoms include coughing thick yellow, green or blood-tinged mucus and a stabbing chest pain that worsens when coughing or breathing, according to Healthline.

In a statement, the department said its HOD Mkhululi Lukhele had visited the hospital on Wednesday to assess the situation.

During his visit, Lukhele confirmed that the hospital's neonatal unit had identified seven cases of Klebsiella pneumonia in July 2018, which resulted in the deaths of two babies.

He added that samples had been taken and sent to the laboratory to establish the source of the outbreak.

The hospital has since taken proactive measures by strengthening "Infection Prevention and Control" and closely monitoring the unit, he said.

"All babies that were admitted in the ward were screened to prevent further infections... The department is planning to form a provincial task team led by neonatologists to continuously look at the measures to prevent possible future infections in all our facilities," Lukhele said.

Lukhele added that the hospital, like many other health facilities in the province, faced the challenge of an ever-increasing demand for services.

He said the 61-bedded neonatal unit often admitted close to 90 patients.

"Whilst the management is looking at improving the hospital infrastructure, it is doing its utmost best to serve patients with honour and dignity," he said.

'There is much unhappiness'

Lukhele also assured the workers, and members of the public who had complained about some of the facility management team, that they would be subjected to the department's labour policies and procedures.

"No stone will be left unturned in our investigations," Lukhele said.

Gauteng DA health spokesperson Jack Bloom said he was concerned that severe overcrowding and staff shortages at the hospital had contributed to the deaths of the babies.

Bloom and MPL Neil Campbell also conducted an oversight visit at the hospital following the reports of the deaths.

"There is much unhappiness amongst the staff at this hospital, who have presented a memorandum of grievances to hospital management," Bloom said.

He added that hospital CEO Nomonde Mqhayi-Mbambo had told them that the first case was identified on July 9. One of the babies died in July and another in August.

Bloom said the Gauteng heath department needed to thoroughly investigate the infection that had led to the deaths, and fix the underlying problems at hospital.