Fire broke out in the theatre recovery room at Beitbridge District Hospital yesterday around 10am destroying equipment and infrastructure worth an estimated US$3,5 million and damaging stores in the rest of the 20-room theatre complex.
The hospital is urgently seeking replacement equipment and stores from the provincial hospital in Gwanda so that it can resume work quickly. It normally carries out an average of five small theatre operations a day, including around 30 Caesarian deliveries a month.
The 140-bed hospital is a referral centre for nearly 300 000 residents under the town and the surrounding rural area of the district.
In addition, it caters for close to 15 000 people in transit through the Beitbridge border post daily and scores of patients from neighbouring Gwanda, Mberengwa and Mwenezi districts. The hospital sees 350 babies delivered each month.
Beitbridge District Medical Officer Dr Lenos Samhere said they had sent a list of their requirements to Gwanda for urgent deployment of equipment.
“The situation is very bad, we are now just like an ordinary clinic without a theatre,” said Dr Samhere.
“So, as a stop gap measure we are mobilising equipment from the provincial hospital in Gwanda so that we may in the interim use the small theatre in our out-patients department to handle critical cases.
“With the help of other local technocrats from the Public Works Department, we are investigating the cause of the fire and compiling a bill of quantities on what we would need to get the theatre working again.”
He said besides the theatre equipment and the infrastructure being destroyed, most of the consumables in the 20-room theatre complex were damaged by the smoke.
No one was injured since the medical staff was still preparing the facility ahead of scheduled procedures.
The operating theatre nurse who was the first to notice the fire, Sister Patience Bere, was busy preparing for surgery when she saw some smoke coming from the recovery room.
“I rushed to inspect the origins of the smoke and saw that it was coming from one of the electrical beds in the recovery room. I alerted the hospital management who then called in the fire services department who contained the fire. Fortunately, some patients who had come for surgery were still outside the building and it was easy to move them to a safer place,” she said.
Beitbridge’s Head of Emergency and Fire Services, Mr George Maseko said the cause of the fire was still under investigations although they strongly suspected it was due to an electrical fault.
He said when the firefighters arrived the whole building was engulfed with smoke and it was difficult for them to see where the fire was coming from. But after breaking windows and doors to one of the rooms they saw the source and moved in fast.
“It took us less than seven minutes to contain the fire after picking up its source. However, the theatre recovery room which had several items of delicate equipment was extensively damaged.
“We had to strategically manage the fire so that it could not spread to other 19 rooms within the theatre. You will note that most equipment and consumables were adversely affected by the heat and the smoke.”
The local head of Department of Public Works, Mr Admore Tlou, said they had started working on assessing the structural damages to the building.
He said the fireproof ceiling in the recovery room where the fire had started had slowed down the spread of the fire across the whole buildings. Damaged equipment had already been moved from the theatre building.
A resident of Kwalu 1 suburb, Mr Innocent Mudau said it was critical for the Beitbridge Municipality and the local civil protection committee health cluster to engage their counterparts in Musina over prospects of taking some critical cases for operations south of the Limpopo River.
“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.
Ms Veronica Moyo of Vhembe View Suburb appealed to community members to mobilise resources and facilitate the urgent transport of those patients already at the hospital who need to undergo surgeries.