The infections took place in June and July this year. RTL Nieuws spoke to three mothers who were hospitalized with their child, after which their children were found to have scabies. Two out of three children now, months later, still suffer from the skin condition.
The infections took place in the so-called mother-baby unit at Sint Antonius Hospital. In this department, mothers and their children are treated if psychiatric problems arise as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, such as postpartum depression.
Scabies, officially called mange, is caused by mange mites, tiny creatures that look like spiders. They dig tunnels in your skin and lay eggs there. An allergic reaction in the skin makes you very itchy, especially at night. The condition is harmless, but very bothersome and contagious.
The parents fight the scabies mite with ointments and pills they are prescribed, but the disease turns out to be persistent. You should also wash clothes, bed linen and towels properly every time.
Although it is not a life-threatening condition, the infection has a great impact on the young mothers. “It’s destroying my whole family,” says one of them. She has been trying to get rid of the contagious disease from her home for a month and a half without success. “I don’t dare hug my second child anymore, because I’m afraid of infecting her.”
A little communication
According to the mothers, the outbreak started around June this year, but only came to light at the end of the summer. One of the mothers says that her son was initially misdiagnosed. It wasn’t until two months after the first complaints that her son was diagnosed with scabies at another hospital.
Another mother, whose child later turned out to be infected, had to learn from other patients that an outbreak had occurred: “I heard about it from other mothers. Then my own son was completely covered in the rash and I went to the dermatologist , which showed that he had scabies.”
The mothers are satisfied with the care they received during their hospitalization, but believe the hospital has failed them following the infections. “When I call, I get someone from the department on the line, and when I ask to see a psychiatrist or department manager, they promise to call me back, and then I hear nothing,” one of them said.
On September 28, months after the first infection, the hospital sent a letter to some of the mothers who had been admitted to the relevant ward this summer.
The letter mentions the scabies attack and advises patients to undergo preventive treatment. Two of the three patients that RTL Nieuws spoke to did not receive this letter.
At least one of the mothers has raised claims for incurred costs and psychological damages she claims to have suffered. That claim is still pending.
Another mother, whose son still suffers greatly from the disease, wants her child to get well: “I want my son to be treated in the hospital under the supervision of a doctor, so that I can be sure that the condition will disappear.”
Scabies outbreaks have been frequent in recent years, especially in college towns.
Outbreaks in hospitals are more common. For example, a few patients and employees at a hospital in Emmen were infected last year. In 2018, the Juliana Children’s Hospital in The Hague took measures after an infection was discovered in an employee.
The hospital’s response
Sint Antonius Hospital does not respond to questions from RTL Nieuws about the outbreak or the lack of communication, but says in a response:
“It is true that at the end of the summer we detected scabies in a patient in our hospital. We then implemented the current and usual procedures in consultation with the GGD to investigate whether it had been present in the house for a long time . Immediate steps have been taken to prevent spread and to inform potentially affected patients.”
“We understand there are questions about this. We are looking into this with internal and external stakeholders. Because we want to do this carefully, it will take some time.”