Last week’s fire at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital was the fourth such fire in the province in the past six years, the DA in Gauteng said on Monday.
The hospital was closed for seven days after fire ripped through parts of the facility last Friday. Hundreds of patients had to be moved to other hospitals as a safety precaution due to concerns of smoke.
The DA’s spokesperson on health, Jack Bloom, claimed widespread safety non-compliance at Gauteng hospitals, saying past inspections of public hospitals had revealed widespread lack of compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
He cited previous fires at Carletonville Hospital in February this year, Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in May 2019 and Tambo Memorial Hospital in May 2015, as well as the fire at the head office of the Gauteng health department in the Bank of Lisbon building in September 2018.
“Former Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku indicated in 2019 that no state health facility in Gauteng had been assessed as complying with the OHSA. He said that ‘all facilities audited received either a noncompliance finding, such as a contravention and/or improvement compliance notice and fire contravention’.
“The critical areas included general machinery regulations, electrical installation regulations, firefighting equipment, lift regulations, storage, exits, stairs and aisles,” he said in a statement.
Bloom said the provincial health department estimated it would cost about R6 billion to ensure fire and safety compliance at all 32 public hospitals in Gauteng.
“This included R394 million to fix Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, but little of this has been budgeted for. Years of poor spending on maintenance has led to the parlous state of our hospitals, which risks the lives of patients and staff.
“I estimate that the cost to fix Charlotte Maxeke after the fire may well be close to R1 billion.”
At the same time, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has called for an investigation into safety measures at the hospital.
“Investigations must reveal if the hospital has a functional fire sprinkler system and other measures to deal with such an ordeal,” the union said in a statement.
“Nehawu has been at the forefront of highlighting the unsafe state of government buildings, especially the Civitas Building and the Bank of Lisbon Building, among others.”