Information on hospital fire looms

THE provincial Department of Health is yet to make public a report into the fire that gutted the information technology (IT) section of the Port Shepstone Regional Hospital in May last year.

It is believed that patients are being accommodated in the building above the damaged area, even though the structure has not been renovated. The department has claimed that the technical assessments and redesign had been completed and plans to begin repairs are “at an advanced stage”.

An employee, who did not want to be named, told the media that the structure was painted to remove soot, and windows were repaired.

“We don’t know about the structural integrity of this block, and we have no idea as to how it’s going to be fixed since patients are already in the three floors which have more than 100 beds,” said the employee. An oversight visit to the facility last week by the DA, revealed that while plans were in place to begin repairs after the south wing was gutted, parts of the affected building were still being used to house patients.

Dr Imran Keeka, DA spokesperson for health, said while fire damage to the ground floor had been “neatened up” and painted, the safety of staff and patients was a concern because of possible infrastructural damage.

“This is a particular concern as the storm season approaches. This is a disaster waiting to happen. We need confirmation whether a stability assessment has been undertaken by structural and other engineers after the fire,” he said

“This remains unclear since the report on the fire has never been tabled before the province’s Health Portfolio Committee nor has the committee ever been briefed about the content of the report and safety of the three floors,” said Keeka.

The fire started in the IT server room. Computers and other equipment were destroyed. The J ward and intensive care unit were affected by smoke, and patients were evacuated.

“In spite of the concerns around the infrastructure, the Port Shepstone Regional Hospital is very well run. In my almost four-and-a-half years of health facility oversights, its good work is unparalleled with the management having reached 97% of the national core standards,” said Keeka

“The only stumbling blocks are those created by an uncaring and out-of-touch political leadership with the provincial department,” he said.

Ncumisa Mafunda, department spokesperson, said in the case of flooding, the damage caused by a fire to a building can affect its structural integrity. This necessitates a thorough assessment, planning and a redesign of the building before any repair work can commence, as well the need to secure funding. “Plans for the commencement of repairs have now reached an advanced stage. All the necessary technical assessments and the redesign of the affected parts, as well as other related administrative processes, have been completed.”

Mafunda said that a public tender for the repairs would be issued soon.