The Gauteng Department of Health has confirmed that 10 babies died at Tembisa Hospital's neonatal unit between November and December last year, due to a Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) outbreak.
"We can confirm that 17 cases of CRE bacteraemia were reported during the period between 1 November to 31 December 2019, which sadly resulted in deaths of 10 babies. It was suspected that the organism responsible for this outbreak was Klebsiella pneumoniae," Gauteng health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said in a statement on Monday.
Kekana said CRE was difficult to treat because it has a high resistance to antibiotics and can cause deadly infections in the bloodstream, lungs and urinary tract, including pneumonia and meningitis.
Following a meeting with the hospital services directorate, the Tshwane district microbiology team and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), several measures were put in place, including the deployment of more nurses in the neonatal unit and the diversion of new admissions to Kalafong Hospital and Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
An external infection prevention and control audit will be conducted, and the National Health Laboratory Services Infection Control Service will provide technical support assistance to audit Gauteng Department of Health neonatal units.
The NICD will also allocate resources to develop a dashboard to monitor laboratory confirmed neonatal infections at facility level.
Kwara said the hospital was often faced with an ever-increasing demand for its services.
"The 44-bedded neonatal unit often admits close to 90 patients. Whilst the department is looking at improving the hospital infrastructure, it is doing its utmost best to serve patients with respect and dignity," he said.