The national director general of health had stated on Friday that the precedent conditions of staff shortages and overcrowding had led to the Klebsiella outbreak at Durban's Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital, which had killed 22 babies early in 2005.
Thami Mseleku said, "Nobody needs to communicate these problems. We are looking at a historical issue from before 1994. It's (overcrowding and staff shortages) a known fact." That is the reason, which had led to the failing of infection control steps, he explained at the release of the hospital's neo-natal mortality review.
A Klebsiella outbreak at the hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) in May 2005 had killed 22 babies, but Mseluku stated that no negligence had ever been found and that there were no staffs that were facing any kind off disciplinary action. The health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang set up a task team to investigate the causes of the outbreak and claims that as many as 40 babies also died of the disease at the hospital in 2003.
Professor Willem Sturm, from the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine who had led the task team, said that Klebsiella pneumonia bacteria had caused 71 deaths among the total of 509 deaths that had occurred between January 2003 and July 2005. Professor Strum also explained that the death rate of 23 deaths per 1 000 births at the hospital was not any worser than else where in rest of the country.
It was explained that the 2003 outbreak that had claimed 40 babies, could not be directly liked to a failure in infection control measures as the Klebsiella samples taken at that time had been destroyed. But sources have indicated that 22 Klebsiella deaths in 2005 were linked to a failure of infection control measures.
Insufficient hand washing by NICU staff was supposedly the reason for the outbreak as attributed by the previous report by Strum. It was reported that the contamination was caused by the multiple uses of intravenous bottles used to administer Vamin-Glucose. Sturm had further stated that the task team had submitted recommendations to KwaZulu-Natal health minister Peggy Nkonyeni to establish a monitoring system in the province.
A community group who were assisting the parents of children who died in the 2005 outbreak took up legal action against the department. The matter has yet to come before the courts. Mseleku had stated that the full report would be made publicly available once the legal issues had been addressed.