The return of patients to Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital after last week’s fire that saw over 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 Department of Infrastructure Development on Friday said structural repairs were still needed before the facility can reopen.
Meanwhile, on his visit to the hospital earlier this week, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize described the inferno as “a crisis with a happy ending” as no lives were lost. Mkhize said personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical essentials worth R40 million were lost in the blaze.
“I’ve seen that the building has shown a lot of damage which is the middle of the entire hospital block. There’s been a huge fire with a huge amount of destruction. No one can tell the level of damage until a proper and thorough assessment has been done.
“I was pleased with the report I got and I was pleased to see the extent to which a lot of hard work was put in to save the lives of patients and save the hospital. My first sense of gratitude goes to the hospital team that worked together and saved as many patients as possible from injury,” said Mkhize.
On whether the fire hydrants at the facility were functional, MEC for Infrastructure Development and Property Management Tasneem Motara said each building was built according to current fire compliance and as the hospital was built, it met the fire needs of that time.
“When we do maintenance and repairs, we make sure we address these issues up to current needs. The inside of the hospital has fire extinguishers and a sprinkler system that does work. There is a fire hydrant system but what happened on the day was that firefighters who were battling the fire could not connect the hydrant that was closest to the fire and so they used an alternative hydrant,” she said.
According to the CEO of the hospital, Gladys Bogoshi, there are 160 hydrants in the facility. She emphasised that patients were moved to avoid smoke inhalation, and it was important for them to move as quickly as they could. It is still unclear how the fire began.
In terms of demolition, Motara stressed that the structure does not need to be demolished. Where one floor has caved in, the structure is going to be propped up to allow SAPS to do their internal investigation.
“Our engineers will then come to do a proper thorough, structural investigation,” she said.
Meanwhile, Johannesburg EMS Spokesperson Synock Matobako said the preliminary report is not yet available as there is an investigation under way.
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 spokesperson Kwara Kekana said the process to inform families about where patients were transferred to commenced last week Saturday and is still under way.
She added that all patients who planned Caesarean surgeries and urgent surgeries at the hospital should go to the Discoverers Community Healthcare Centre a day before their scheduled admission. It is situated at 39 Clarendon Drive, Discovery, in Florida. Pregnant women who need antenatal services are advised to go to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital.
The hospital will contact patients who need gynaecological surgeries and other services about new appointment dates. The Charlotte Maxeke team of surgeons will operate at South Rand Hospital.
People who want to enquire about their admitted relatives or outpatient facilities can contact the Gauteng Citizens Relationship Management hotline on 0800 22 88 27, 0800 42 88 364 or email [email protected] or [email protected]