Fire hazard un­heeded?

> Blaze broke out at ward 10 days be­fore in­ci­dent that killed six pa­tients


JO­HOR BARU: There were warn­ing signs ear­lier that the In­ten­sive Care Unit (ICU) of the Sul­tanah Ami­nah Hos­pi­tal was a fire hazard but whether the signs were heeded re­mains un­clear.

In a shock­ing rev­e­la­tion yes­ter­day, the Fire and Res­cue Depart­ment said a fire broke out at the ICU some 10 days be­fore the ma­jor fire that claimed six lives on Tues­day.

Ac­cord­ing to Jo­hor Baru Fire and Res­cue chief Ibrahim Omar, the ear­lier fire oc­curred on Oct 15.

“We got a call about the fire due to a faulty socket that burst into flames at the ICU, but by the time we got there the fire had al­ready been put out by hos­pi­tal staff,” he said.

He added that af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions, he had sug­gested that the hos­pi­tal’s en­gi­neer­ing depart­ment do tests on the sock­ets in the ward.

An­other shock­ing rev­e­la­tion is that the hos­pi­tal had not con­ducted a fire drill for its staff since 2014. Ibrahim said the depart­ment had never con­ducted a drill there. “I don’t know when the last one was, it could have been way back in 2009,” he told a press con­fer­ence at the hos­pi­tal.

He said that if there were fire drills and the ICU block had a first-re­sponse team, the re­cov­ery of vic­tims would have been faster, adding that most parts of the hos­pi­tal had a first-re­sponse team, ex­cept for the ICU ward.

“When we got there, ev­ery­one had pan­icked and there was chaos be­cause there wasn’t a first-re­sponse team,” he said.

Ibrahim said that it is a le­gal re­quire­ment that ev­ery build­ing has such a team. It was re­ported ear­lier that the ICU had no heat or smoke de­tec­tors and sprin­klers were only in the cor­ri­dors.

Mean­while, Health Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Dr S. Subra­ma­niam said the hos­pi­tal’s main build­ing, which in­cludes the east and west blocks, will be shut down for two to four weeks pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“Dur­ing this shut down pe­riod, ser­vices like our Ac­ci­dent and Emer­gency ward, Cen­tral Ster­ile Ser­vices depart­ment and blood bank will be closed,” he said.

He urged the pub­lic to seek treat­ment from other hos­pi­tals in the state, if pos­si­ble.

He added that the hos­pi­tal might have to en­list the help of the pri­vate sec­tor to treat some pa­tients.

On the safety and cer­tifi­cate of fit­ness of the build­ing, Subra­ma­niam said there had been many phases of ren­o­va­tions in the hos­pi­tal over the years and at all times, the state Fire Depart­ment had given its ap­proval.

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