Hundreds of abandoned babies in Gauteng hospitals

By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:

A total of 374 new-born babies have been abandoned in Gauteng hospitals in the last three years.

This shock figure is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mahlangu, 147 babies were abandoned in Gauteng hospitals in 2013, followed by 124 abandoned babies in 2014 and 108 babies from January to September this year.

This averages out to about 11 babies who are abandoned every month in Gauteng.

Worst affected was Leratong Hospital where 100 babies were abandoned over this time period.

Other hard-hit hospitals include the following:

  • Far East Rand Hospital – 47 babies;
  • Chris Hani Baragwanath – 30 babies;
  • Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg – 25 babies;
  • Tembisa Hospital – 19 babies;
  • Rahima Moosa, Mamelodi and Bheki Mlangeni hospitals – 17 babies each; and
  • Tshwane District and Thelle Mogoerane hospitals – 11 babies each.

Currently, there are 52 abandoned babies that have been abandoned for more than a month, of which 30 are in Chris Hani, seven at Tembisa Hospital and five at Thelle Mogoerane Hospital (formerly New Natalspruit).

Babies are left at hospitals for a variety of reasons, including teenage pregnancy and unwanted pregnancy, lack of family support, poverty, deserted by the father, fear of parents and resentment.

The department also notes a trend of babies being picked up in the veld, HIV status of parents and foreign mothers.

The cost of caring for these babies is about R2000 a day.

Mahlangu says that the following steps are being taken to deal with the problem:

  • Ensure that parents can be identified and contact details are confirmed;
  • Ongoing educational talks on contraceptives and choice of termination at community level; Referring mothers to social workers to discuss alternative options like adoption; and
  • Offering family therapy to deal with the situation.

It’s very sad that so many mothers feel the need to abandon their babies. Prevention efforts should be broad-based and tackle the societal problems that break the natural bond between mother and infant.