It was reported on Tuesday that several newborn babies have died while others have been left brain damaged at Chris Hani Baragwanath (CHB) Hospital’€™s labour ward because of a staffing crisis at the academic hospital.

Specialists claimed that at least two of the deaths were avoidable stillbirths.

The staffing crisis is linked to among others the  non-payment of nursing agencies which hit the academic hospital at the end of last year.

It has now emerged that the details of the deaths were what prompted health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to urgently intervene and dispatch five defence force theatre nurses to the busy maternity ward.

In a memorandum sent by a senior specialist to the the CHB Medical Advisory Committee in December, it is revealed that the situation in the maternity ward and theatres was dire.

The doctor points out that the staffing levels in the ward and theatres were seriously short of the World Health Organisation norm.

The ward was supposed to be staffed by seven nurses in admissions, 13 in the labour ward, four in high care and six in theatre.

However, the register revealed that on one weekend in early December there was between zero and two nurses in admission (7 required), between two and three in the labour ward (13), two in high care (4) and between one and three in the theatre (6).

‘€œWe are trying to provide an obstetric service in shocking and dangerous condition, to a community that has not been informed about the inadequacies of our overloaded labour ward, admissions and theatre, and our dangerously inadequate nursing staff complement,’€ the doctor wrote.

Democratic Alliance spokerson for health in the province Jack Bloom has called for CHB CEO Johanna More to be fired and ‘€œreplaced with top class management team to turn the hospital around’€.

He said the deaths and disability would lead to an avalanche of medical negligence claims against the Gauteng Health Department.

‘€œThis hospital already faces 17 medical-legal claims totalling about R10 million for alleged negligence leading to brain damage and cerebral palsy in new-born babies,’€  Bloom pointed out.