Fire at Steve Biko Hospital

By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:

I am relieved that no one was hurt by the fire at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on Saturday night, but it highlights the need for regular fire inspections at Gauteng hospitals.

Last year there were three fires at Gauteng Hospitals:

  • A fire in the stores department of the Tambo Memorial Hospital on 30 May;
  • Cleaning department fire at Helen Joseph Hospital on 6 September; and
  • Fire caused by electrical fault at a washing machine at the laundry of the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital on 23 September.

According to a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature in October last year, an inspection was last done at the Steve Biko Hospital in July last year. It found that exits were blocked and while non-compliance letters were given to management, the exits were still a problem.

The department says that the fire at Steve Biko may have been caused by a cigarette and most patients had to be evacuated. None were injured but about 13 employees were treated for smoke inhalation and discharged.

I think this was a close call as it could have been worse.

According to Mahlangu’s reply to my questions, the following hospitals are long overdue for their annual fire inspection:

  • Leratong Hospital – last inspected in August 2012;
  • George Mukhari Hospital – last inspected in April 2013;
  • South Rand Hospital – last inspected in May 2013;
  • Tara Hospital – last inspected in July 2013;
  • Sebokeng Hospital – May 2014; Carletonville Hospital –  last inspected in June 2014;
  • Edenvale Hospital – last inspected in July 2014;
  • Pholosong Hospital – last inspected in August 2014; and
  • Rahima Moosa Hospital – last inspected in September 2014.

The Gauteng Health Department should ensure that all fire inspections are up to date and action taken on the findings.

We cannot risk a fire that could injure or kill helpless patients.