Quality of safety inspections questioned after Charlotte Maxeke Hospital fire

People who were there on the night of the fire have told Eyewitness News that it appeared that the sprinklers at the hospital were not working and also claiming that smoke control doors in passageways appeared to have been removed.

FILE: A fire broke out at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg on Friday, 16 April 2021. Picture: Twitter/@GautengHealth

JOHANNESBURG - Independent experts have raised serious concerns about the quality of safety inspections at old buildings following the fire that broke out at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital.

People who were there on the night of the fire have told Eyewitness News that it appeared that the sprinklers at the hospital were not working and also claiming that smoke control doors in passageways appeared to have been removed.

These are just two of the aspects that need to be checked regularly.

READ: Firefighters question Charlotte Maxeke Hospital's fire response plan

Gauteng's Infrastructure Development and Health departments insisted that regular maintenance checks were carried out at the facility.

"The lift shafts are not protected - there is no sprinkler systems in there, all the smoke control doors have been removed over the years - the door was there to hold the smoke at bay, at least so you can have some time to move forward and away from it," Wynand Engelbrecht, the CEO of Fire Ops SA, a private company that worked alongside the state-employed firefighters on the night of the fire at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital.

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

Stephen Faulkner, the acting general secretary of firefighters union Demawusa, said that these claims were not surprising to him.

"I have certainly heard about the sprinklers not working and I have certainly heard that several of the smoke prevention doors had been removed, apparently to enable access - they were blocking some of the passageways."

When Eyewitness News asked the Gauteng Health Department about the maintenance of the hospital, it said that the Labour Department had conducted inspections on 3 November and undertook a follow-up visit in January.

The Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department said that it had an entire team responsible for planned maintenance and these inspections were done routinely.

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