Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
MEDICAL equipment and consumables worth US$3,5 million went up in flames when a fire broke out at Beitbridge District Hospital in Matabeleland South province following a suspected electrical fault yesterday morning.
No one was injured.
In addition to being a district referral hospital for a population of about 30 000 residents, the 140-bed health facility also caters for the in-transit population passing through Beitbridge Border Post.
An estimated 15 000 people pass through the border town daily, with figures increasing to more than 25 000 during peak periods.
As a stop-gap measure, health authorities have started deploying equipment from Gwanda Provincial Hospital following the destruction of equipment at the Beitbridge District Hospital Theatre where surgical operations are carried out. On average five minor surgical operations are done daily.
The fire broke out in the facility’s recovery room at around 10 AM destroying medical equipment and infrastructure. Beitbridge District Medical Officer, Dr Lenos Samhere said they have since sent a list of the equipment that is urgently required.
“The situation is very bad and we urgently need equipment because for a hospital like this one, we can’t operate without a theatre. So, as a stop-gap measure, we are mobilising equipment from our provincial hospital in Gwanda so that we may in the interim, use the small theatre in our Out Patient Department to handle critical cases,” he said.
“With the help of personnel from the department of public works, we are investigating the cause of the fire and compiling a bill of quantities for tendering so that we get the theatre working again.”
Dr Samhere said most of the consumables in the 20-room theatre were damaged by the smoke. Ms Patience Bere, a theatre nurse who witnessed the incident, said she was busy preparing for surgery when she noticed smoke billowing out from the burning recovery room.
“I rushed to inspect the origins of the smoke and noticed that it was coming from one of the electrical beds in the recovery room. I immediately alerted the hospital management and they contacted the emergency services,” she said.
“Luckily, some patients who had come for surgery were still outside the building and it was easy to move them to a safer place.”
A nurse in charge of the theatre, Mr Thomas Mlalazi, said the hospital handles an average of five minor surgical operations and at least one birth by C-section daily.
Beitbridge Municipality’s chief fire officer, Mr George Maseko said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
He, however, said preliminary investigations suggested that the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault.
Mr Maseko said when their fire fighters arrived at the scene, they found the entire building covered in smoke, which made it difficult for them to establish the source of the fire.
“We only managed to establish the spot where the fire started after breaking windows and doors to access one of the rooms. It took us less than seven minutes to contain the fire and the theatre recovery room where several delicate pieces of equipment were kept,” he said.
“We had to strategically manage the fire so that it could not spread to other 19 rooms within the theatre. Most of the equipment and consumables were affected by the heat and the smoke”.
The district maintenance officer in the department of public works, Mr Admore Tlou said they have started assessing the structural damages to the building.
He said the fireproof ceiling in the recovery room where the fire started helped slow down the spread of the inferno.
A resident, Mr Innocent Mudau, urged Beitbridge Municipality and the local Civil Protection Committee to engage their counterparts in Musina for assistance in the event of disasters and other emergencies.
“We are appealing to authorities to liaise with their colleagues in Musina considering that they are just 12km away. Transporting patients could be easier compared to driving for over 300km to the next facility in Bulawayo,” he said.
Another resident, Ms Veronica Moyo appealed to community members to mobilise resources to facilitate the transfer of patients that urgently require surgery to other hospitals.
Beitbridge Rural District Council has twinned with South Africa’s Vhembe District Municipality in Limpopo Province in a bid to strengthen economic, social and development ties.
Vhembe Municipality runs several towns including Makhado, Thulamela, Collins Chabane and Musina.
Beitbridge Municipality and Musina Municipality have started working on a twinning arrangement that will see the two local authorities signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under the Trans-Limpopo Spatial Development Initiative (TLSDI).
The arrangement will enhance cooperation between the two border towns, which share a lot in common in terms of cultural identities, economic ties and cross-cutting challenges that come with their geographical locations as Sadc region’s biggest trade corridor. [email protected]