The return of patients to the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital after last week’s fire that saw more than 840 relocated to other health facilities will take a little longer than initially expected.
The hospital was temporarily closed for a week to assess structural damage and ensure that it is safe to reopen. After conducting a visual assessment, the Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department said on Friday that structural repairs were still needed before the facility could be reopened.
Meanwhile, on his visit to the hospital earlier this week, the Minister of Health, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, described hell as “a crisis with a happy ending” since no lives were lost. Mkhize said personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essential medical items worth R40 million were lost in the fire.
“I saw that the building showed a lot of damage, which is in the middle of the entire hospital block. There was a big fire with a lot of destruction. No one can tell the level of damage until an adequate and thorough assessment has been made.
“I was pleased with the report I received and I was pleased to see how much hard work was done to save the lives of patients and save the hospital. My first feeling of gratitude goes to the hospital staff who worked together and saved so many patients as many injuries as possible, ”said Mkhize.
On whether the hydrants at the facility were working, MEC for Infrastructure Development and Property Management Tasneem Motara said that each building was built in accordance with current fire legislation and, as the hospital was built, met the fire needs of the time .
“When we do maintenance and repairs, we make sure that we address these problems according to current needs. The interior of the hospital has fire extinguishers and a sprinkler system that works. There is a fire hydrant system, but what happened that day was that firefighters who were fighting the fire were unable to connect the fire hydrant that was closest to the fire and then used an alternative fire hydrant, ”she said.
According to the hospital’s CEO, Gladys Bogoshi, there are 160 hydrants on the premises. She emphasized that patients were moved to avoid smoke inhalation and that it was important that they move as quickly as possible. It is not yet clear how the fire started.
In terms of demolition, Motara stressed that the structure does not need to be demolished. Where a floor has collapsed, the structure will be propped up to allow SAPS to conduct its internal investigation.
“Our engineers will do a thorough and adequate structural investigation,” she said.
Meanwhile, Johannesburg EMS spokesman Synock Matobako said the preliminary report is not yet available as an investigation is underway.
Matobako said the investigation will focus on the building’s structural integrity (assessed by structural engineers) and the cause of the fire, which will be established by EMS fire investigators and the SAPS forensic team.
Gauteng Health Department spokesman Kwara Kekana said the process of informing families about where the patients were transferred began last week on Saturday and is still ongoing.
She added that all patients who had planned caesarean sections and urgent surgery at the hospital should go to the Discoverers Community Health Center the day before their scheduled admission. It is located at 39 Clarendon Drive, Discovery, Florida. Pregnant women who need prenatal services are advised to go to the Maternal Children’s Hospital Rahima Moosa.
The hospital will contact patients in need of gynecological surgeries and other services about new appointment dates. The Charlotte Maxeke team of surgeons will operate at South Rand Hospital.