Spate of hospital fires suspicious, says Public Servants Association

The PSA is concerned about the sudden spate of fires at various hospitals, seemingly starting without explanation.

The Public Servants Association (PSA) has called on the ministers of health and police for the urgent establishment of a special unit to investigate acts of suspected arson at government health facilities.
The union, which represents 80,000 healthcare workers has expressed concern about what it refers to as recent “arson attacks” on health facilities and buildings. The PSA is concerned about the fires at various hospitals, seemingly starting without explanation.
It wants the matter to receive the urgent attention of the government because of the threat it poses to the health system as it fights the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The PSA is already extremely concerned about the imminent collapse of the South African health system and these arson attacks on flagship hospitals put additional strain on the strained health system,” says union spokesperson Reuben Maleka.

He warns that severe repercussions would follow the alleged arson incidents at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg in April 2021 and FH Odendaal Hospital in Limpopo on Wednesday.

This as experts continue to predict a third wave of Covid-19 infections while the rollout of vaccines to healthcare workers drags on.

While the blaze at Charlotte Maxeke was suspected by some to be arson, Gauteng DA MPL Jack Bloom argues that even if it was, the greater issue was the lack of fire safety in government hospitals to prevent fires from spreading.
The provincial government is investigating the cause of the blaze, while a police inquest was opened into the incident.
Despite hundreds of millions poured into the maintenance of infrastructure at the hospital, the building is still an occupational safety hazard, according to Bloom.
” I think that arson might be a cause, but the issue is the fire was meant to be contained that Friday afternoon and instead it continued to flare up to the next day. I would think that if the fire safety features were up to scratch, you could have controlled it,” he says.

“It’s a long standing issue of poor maintenance. To implement regular preventative maintenance is what we actually should be doing, so that we don’t have to do major rehabilitation. We also have hospitals that are virtually condemned which should be rebuilt completely. In terms of occupational health and safety, the signs are all there that none of our hospitals comply.”

The PSA has advised the national health department to implement stringent security measures at health
facilities to prevent further damage to infrastructure and loss of equipment.