Taking a tough stance

Fred Wesley | Wednesday, December 6, 2017
It was a terrifying scene. Hundreds of patients at the Lautoka Hospital had to be evacuated in the early hours of yesterday morning as fire engulfed the old operating theatre building.

Patients had their stories to tell.

As Rahul Naidu, a patient in the Men's Medical Ward, said it was one of the most terrifying moments of his life.

A loud announcement over the intercom at around 1am, for people to leave the building, he said, woke him up.

At first, he said, nobody moved "because many of us had just woken up".

It was only after the third announcement when he asked a nurse if it was a drill, and he was told to quickly exit the building and head to the car park because there was a fire.

As investigations continue to determine the cause of the fire, many questions will no doubt be asked.

Was the hospital's fire fighting system, if it has one, activated immediately? Were evacuation procedures in place and followed?

It seems from patient reports, evacuation was done safely.

A positive factor that stood out yesterday was the effort by the police, National Fire Authority and Republic of Fiji Military Forces which aided in the quick evacuation process. Patients were taken to safety as the NFA tried to contain the fire.

Patients also spoke highly of security guards and nurses helping patients to move to the car-park. There were obviously some issues raised which those in authority must consider urgently.

While the Special Outpatients Clinic, X-ray Department and General Outpatients Clinic were affected and are temporarily closed, everyone who was part of the evacuation process deserves acknowledgement and praise.

The challenge now is on the powers that be to get to the bottom of this incident and put in place stringent measures for the future.

An investigation will surely assist stakeholders plan for the future.

Surely prevention of fires and emergency responses should be high priority.

For now people who turn to the Lautoka Hospital should take appropriate action for their medical needs, and use services of their nearest health centres until operations are normalised.

Such incidents are frightening and will no doubt leave lasting memories on the minds of all those impacted by it.

However, the challenge for them now is to get over this phase one step at a time.

We join Health Ministry permanent secretary Philip Davies in thanking the Lautoka Hospital management and staff for their actions and everyone else who played a part in ensuring the safety of patients.

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