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Compiled by Narissa Subramoney

Deputy digital news editor


Newborns in cardboard boxes: North West Health MEC blames nurses

'Why did the nurses take so long to report it? We not looking to fault nurses, but why would it not have been reported?' Madoda Sambatha


North West Health MEC Madoda Sambatha effectively threw nurses under the bus over a scandal that broke last week, in which newborn babies were placed in cardboard boxes at the Mahikeng Provincial Hospital’s neonatal section.

During an interview on Monday morning with SA FM veteran radio host Stephen Grootes, Sambatha said there are 47 cribs at Mahikeng Hospital.

But, during the weekend in question, 56 babies were born. “These four were placed in cardboard boxes, and no one reported them to doctors and management. It happened on a Saturday and was only reported on Thursday,” said Sambatha.

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Sambatha blames nurses

“Why did the nurses take so long to report it?” asked Sambatha. “We not looking to fault nurses, but why would it not have been reported?”

He further highlighted that other protocols were not followed. For instance, the hospital could have discharged mothers and babies that were doing well in their checkups to make space. The hospital could have also procured spare cribs and incubators from other facilities in the district and province when they realised they had reached capacity.

The MEC said all 56 babies born that weekend were healthy and delivered “properly”.

“Nothing was wrong except the humiliating aspect of the cardboard boxes,” he said.

ALSO READ: Newborn babies in cardboard boxes: Mahikeng Hospital being probed

Only seven nurses on duty

Nurses union, Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in the North West, however, hit back at Sambatha’s assertion that nurses were at fault.

Provincial Chairperson Mzwakhe Seleke insisted that nurses had informed hospital management before Saturday about the crib shortage.

“There is a shortage of capacity, manpower and cribs at that hospital. The ward accommodates 25 patients; the MEC said 47 patients. That ward was at double capacity with only seven nurses on duty,” said Seleke.

Seleke said the department needed to hold the hospital executive accountable in the same way it had done with nurses.

“Let them also suspend the CEO and management,” Seleke concluded.

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