Fire plunges hospital into darkness

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mbombela - A number of patients had to be moved to other hospitals when a transformer exploded at Mpumalanga's biggest state hospital, Rob Ferreira, in Mbombela on Wednesday.

Fire fighters were called to the scene as smoke bellowed from the main transformer room, which is situated near the hospital's west entrance.

"Terminally ill patients who rely on machines for survival were moved to the nearby private Nelspruit Medi-Clinic. We also made arrangements to transfer other patients to Themba hospital in KaBokweni near White River. Fortunately, no casualties were reported," said hospital CEO Dr Savera Mohangi.

She said the fire caused a total power failure at the hospital, but that patients who were not too ill were kept in the wards.

"Some of the patients went outside to watch while the fire fighters were trying to put out the fire, but they were not in danger," she said. Mohangi said the extent of the damage was not yet known, but that a contractor and technicians were on the scene.

Spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Department of Health and Social Development, Mpho Gabashane, has urged new patients to avoid seeking medical care at the hospital until electricity had been restored.

"We suspect that the problem was caused by the new transformers that were put in place to power the new extension at the hospital. The most unfortunate part is that we can't start the emergency generators because their cables also burnt, so we urge potential patients to go to nearby hospitals or clinics for help," said Gabashane.

He said the department was still trying to determine how to feed patients who were still in the hospital.

"We have also taken into consideration the bodies in the hospital mortuary and how we are going to deal with them. We are also moving newborn babies who are in incubators to other health facilities," he said.

Gabashane said it's not known when power would be restored. "All I can say is that we are doing our best to solve the situation," he said.