Richards said klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria was an extremely common organism‚ present in all hospitals and there was no way to get rid of it.
“It is found throughout the world in increasing numbers.
“The klebsiella bacteria is present at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and all the private hospitals to greater or lesser extent‚ and at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital‚” he said.
Richards added: “If all wards or ICUs that have a patient with a klebsiella infection had to close‚ [then] every hospital in the country would close.”
He said the growing number of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics “is a global emergency”.
“It is not just with klebsiella‚ but with the group of organisms that fall into the same class‚” he said‚ referring to bacteria treated by the same type of antibiotics that develop resistance.
Some strains of the bacteria respond better to medication.
“There are some forms that are more resistant and some that are extremely resistant to antibiotics.”
Infection control was critical to reduce transmission of the bug‚ he said.
“I am sure their [Thelle Mogoerane] infection control procedures were not adequate‚ but even if they were the organism cannot be eradicated and babies are especially susceptible to infection and they die easily.”
Richards‚ a world leader in infection control‚ explained that good infection control meant washing hands between patients‚ ensuring stethoscopes and pens are washed between patients so they don’t spread germs‚ and making sure doctors wore disposable aprons. Hydrogen peroxide can also be sprayed to kill klebsiella pneumoniae‚ as well as other organisms.SA Human Rights Commission spokesman Buang Jones said in it was in contact with the families who had lost babies to help them with a civil claim against the department.
“We have offered to mediate between families and the department to reach a settlement.”
This would prevent a drawn out court battle‚ he said.
Should their mediation offer be refused by the Gauteng health department‚ the commission will offer the mothers legal assistance for a court case‚ he said.
The Gauteng health department has more than R21bn in medical negligence suits against it‚ according to a Gauteng legislature reply by MEC Health Gwen Ramokgopa earlier this year.
This is nearly half its R46bn annual budget. A lot of the claims are related to injuries that babies and mothers suffer during labour‚ she said.
Ramokgopa also told media the department had R6bn in unpaid debt.
The World Bank said that growing antibiotic resistant bacteria and other resistant germs would cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050. Resistant germs currently cause an estimated 700‚000 deaths globally.
The CEO of the Thelle Mogoerane Hospital‚ Nomonde Mqhayi-Mbambo‚ has been placed on special leave. The Democratic Alliance Jack Bloom said he presumed she was still getting paid.
“A friend to the end‚” he complained.
Bloom has highlighted her alleged mismanagement and severe staff shortages at the four-year-old hospital since 2015.