Wednesday 21 April 2021, 10:28am
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize:image supplied
Johannesburg – Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has called the fire at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital a “crisis with a happy ending” because of the lack of fatalities of staff, firefighters or patients.
The minister was visiting the hospital in Auckland Park for the first time on Tuesday since a fire engulfed the hospital over the weekend. The minister was joined by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi and Infrastructure Development and Property Management MEC Tasneem Motara.
“The building has shown a lot of damage to this particular block which is in the middle of the entire hospital block. We’ve seen in some of the areas there has been destruction of some of the floors that caved in and holes that appear on different floors,” Mkhize said.
He added that government could not tell the extent of the fire damage until a thorough assessment was done.
“But there was over R40- million worth of stock, largely personal protective equipment and other essentials, that burned,” he said.
Motara said it seemed that the burned hospital structure did not need to be demolished based on a visual assessment that has been done.
“Where the one floor or slab has caved in, it’s going to be propped to allow the SAPS to do their internal investigation,” she said.
She added that engineers would then be able to do a through structural investigation; however, at this stage the department believed only structural repairs needed to be done.
The minister commended the staff of the hospital for their swift work in evacuating over 840 patients within 24 hours to about 16 hospitals across the Johannesburg metro.
“These patients were coming from different disciplines with different levels of disabilities but also with different requirements, some had drips, ventilators or oxygen, and all of these had to be taken through without any significant accidents,” Mkhize said.
He thanked private hospitals that helped the affected institution’s team.
The hospital’s chief executive, Gladys Bogoshi, emphasised that the patients were moved from the hospital because the hospital team wanted to avoid smoke inhalation.
She added that the fire started in the north side of the building and patients were initially moved to the south side, however once the smoke became too much, the patients were evacuated.
“Already around 3pm that day, we had moved patients to safety, but when we realised the smoke was getting into the other areas of the south, we decided to move everybody out,” the chief executive said.
Bogoshi added that the hospital’s doctors, nurses and cleaners followed the patients where they were moved.
Mkhize called the fire “a crisis with a happy ending”, because of the lack of fatalities of staff, firefighters or patients left behind accidentally.
“We’re talking about 840 patients, and to move those patients starting at night and moving through while corridors are engulfed in smoke. All of that is a sheer sense of dedication that our team has shown,” the minister said.
Gauteng Department of Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said all patients who had planned Caesarean sections and urgent surgeries at the hospital should go to the Discoverers Community Health Centre in Florida.