Where there’s smoke: Fire hazards rife at hospitals

Another incident occurs at Services Hospital, staff unequipped to tackle emergencies.


Ali Ousat December 25, 2017
Representational image. PHOTO: Express/File

LAHORE: A storage space at Services Hospital caught fire with smoke engulfing adjacent wards, forcing medics, patients and attendants out of the building on the night between Friday and Saturday. This is the third such incident at the medical facility, yet no serious steps have been taken to avoid such occurrences, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Similar incidents occurred on October 17, 2017 and June 2012, the latter claiming the lives of several infants.

A nurse, who was an eyewitness, recalled the horror and said that there was a chaotic situation at the medical facility, much like past incidents. She added people rushed outside the hospital, while panicked medics and paramedical staff were confused over tackling the situation.

“At that time, we had no clue over how to deal with the situation. We are completely untrained to handle this kind of emergency,” she commented.

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She added that patients and attendants were rushed outside and staff could only play the role of silent spectators from that point onwards. “Thanks to Rescue 1122, which extinguished the fire, no casualties were reported,” she stated. The nurse remembered that the battle with the blaze took several hours.

“At least they should have given us minimum training to tackle emergency situations at hospitals,” she suggested.

Replying to a question, the nurse stated that a few fire extinguishers had been installed, but those were useless in a fire as nobody knows how to use them.

The health department issued a press release and revealed details of the cause of the fire. It announced the formation of a committee which would submit its report within five days.

“Maybe they are waiting for a big incident which claims the lives of people, God forbid. Perhaps that is when the health department will rise from its slumber,” she commented.

According to a press release, the blaze that broke out in an old store adjacent to Medical Unit-I and the hospital administration called the fire brigade, Rescue 1122 and police.

Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Secretary Najam Ahmed Shah also reached the spot and the fire brigade, with the help of Rescue 1122 and hospital staff, overcame the inferno.

The press release stated all dignitaries of the health department reached the spot. Medical Superintendent Dr Ameer stated smoke filled the medical unit and all patients were evacuated with the help of rescue workers.

Doctors, nurses, paramedics and attendants of patients were safely shifted to other places.

The health secretary formed a fact-finding committee to determine the cause of the fire at Services Hospital and the chapter was finally closed.

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“These were the only steps taken by the health department,” said Dr Farhan Ahmed who was also a witness to the chaos.

“Such incidents are occurring again and again, while the department is sleeping,” he commented. “The health department is in the worst state and all they are able to do is issue a press release.”

When contacted, Young Doctors Association (YDA) General Secretary Dr Salman Kazmi gave some recommendations. He suggested that firefighting equipment must be available at 10-bed wards and staff should be trained.

“Proper checking must be carried out at all government and private hospitals, nurseries, emergency wards, medical and surgical intensive care units, psychiatric and other units.

“We plead for the provision of fire extinguishers at all hospitals and that too in working condition. Every staffer should know how to operate the main control valve,” Salman concluded.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2017.

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