Hospersa Logo


24 January 2020

Hospersa is shocked to learn that ten (10) babies died at Tembisa Hospital during the festive season following an outbreak of a highly drug-resistant bacteria, Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacterales (CRE).  The Gauteng Department of Health (DoH) has highlighted overcrowding and poor hygiene measures in neonatal wards as the main causes of this outbreak.  The provincial department has put measures in place to address these concerns, however Hospersa is alarmed that these measures were taken without union’s involvement.  The Union has called for an inclusive plan which involves health workers unions as key stakeholders in ensuring effective implementation and accountability.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Gauteng DoH is racing to contain a deadly bacteria which claimed the lives of ten (10) babies at Tembisa Hospital during 1 November to 31 December 2019.  According to reports, there were seventeen (17) CRE cases during that period, ten (10) of which are the deceased babies.  CRE is the name given to the bacteria which can resist the effects of the carbapenem group of antibiotics, usually reserved as the last line of defence for multidrug-resistant bacterial infections.  Hospersa has expressed deep concerns regarding this outbreak and worries that more babies could be affected at public health institutions.

“We are shocked by reports of this outbreak,” said Hospersa Provincial Secretary, Mr Bongi Khuzwayo.  “An outbreak of this nature is normally caused by overcrowding and unhygienic conditions.  The Gauteng DoH needs to prioritise addressing these issues, especially in neonatal wards at its public health facilities before more babies lose their lives,” added Khuzwayo.

On 6 January 2020, the Gauteng DoH convened a stakeholders meeting which consisted of Hospital Services Directorate, Tshwane District Microbiology team and National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) to discuss challenges of overcrowding in the wards, staff shortages, infrastructure and inappropriate equipment.  The Gauteng DoH has communicated that the following measures have been taken to prevent further infections in the Neonatal Unit:

  • A quality improvement plan has been created and implemented with immediate effect;
  • Additional Professional Nurses have been deployed to assist at the Neonatal Unit;
  • Approval to divert new admissions to the Kalafong Hospital and Steve Biko Academic Hospital has been granted in principle;
  • Furthermore the external infection prevention and control audit to be conducted on the date to be provided by Provincial Quality Assurance Directorate;
  • National Health Laboratory Services Infection Control Service to provide technical support assistance to audit Gauteng DoH Neonatal Units; and
  • NICD to allocate resources to develop a dashboard to monitor laboratory confirmed neonatal infections at facility level.

However, Hospersa is alarmed that unions were not consulted in the formulation of these measures.

“We are concerned that the Gauteng DoH did not invite union organisations to this stakeholders meeting,” said Khuzwayo.  “We hold strong views about the deplorable working conditions in many public health facilities in Gauteng.  Addressing overcrowding in wards, staff shortages, unhygienic working conditions and poor infrastructure is always high on our agenda when we meet with the employer [Gauteng DoH].  We are surprised that the same department is putting measures in place without involving representatives of health workers and yet expects these issues to be effectively addressed,” argued Khuzwayo.

“We call on the Gauteng DoH to involve us, as health workers’ representatives, in every step of formulating these measures to ensure effective implementation and accountability should the department fail to deliver on its promise for an improved public health care service that is not burdened with deadly bacteria outbreaks in overcrowded neonatal wards,” concluded Khuzwayo.


Total words (excluding heading):  578

 For interviews please contact Hospersa Gauteng Provincial Secretary Mr Bongi Khuzwayo on


 Hospersa – Worker Empowerment.

Please visit us on www.hospersa.co.za to see what we stand for and what we do