Firefighters question Charlotte Maxeke Hospital's fire response plan

The Gauteng Health Department has denied the hospital was caught short, insisting all the necessary plans for managing disasters are in place at the hospital.

The third-floor parking at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital collapsed following a fire that began on Friday, 16 April 2021. Patients were moved and the hospital was closed for seven days. Picture: Twitter/@GautengProvince

JOHANNESBURG - Firefighters who worked on the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital fire have raised questions around the hospital’s readiness, claiming that an emergency fire plan was not readily available.

Just over a week ago, a fire broke out at the facility, prompting the emergency evacuation of hundreds of patients and leading to the temporary closure of the hospital.

The Gauteng Health Department has denied that the hospital was caught short, insisting that all the necessary plans for managing disasters were in place at the hospital.

READ: 2 blocks of the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital significantly damaged by fire – govt

Wynand Engelbrecht is the CEO of Fire Ops SA and he and his crew were among those fighting the blaze at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, alongside state-employed firefighters.

“I moved up to their boardroom on Friday night when I was approached by a doctor and was asked when we are going to start evacuating and I was on the fire ground. I asked, why have you not evacuated, and he said well nothing has happened, and I said take me to your boardroom. when I arrived there, I asked where the emergency plan was and they just didn’t have an emergency plan.”

WATCH: Charlotte Maxeke hospital shut down after fire

He has nearly 50 years of experience in the fire safety sector and claimed that patients were left in the building for far too long before they were evacuated.

“There is blue-grey smoke in the passages and in the wards, 12 hours after the hospital should have been evacuated, how is it possible that it is not the grace of God that we didn’t have any deaths?”

Stephen Faulkner is the acting general secretary of Demawusa representing a large number of state-employed firefighters.

ALSO READ: Some sections of Charlotte Maxeke Hospital to reopen in May: Gauteng gov

He said that one of his firefighters asked the very same questions that night.

“He asked a senior about what the status was about the plan, including evacuation and when they might do that, and just received a blank stare.”

When Eyewitness News posed this serious allegation to the Gauteng Health Department, we received a short answer: “The hospital has an active management committee and has plans and internal management of disasters in place.”

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