Fire risk at Gauteng’s public hospitals is high as only 2 out of 37 hospitals have valid fire clearance certificates, mostly because they don’t have floor plans and adequate fire detection systems.
This alarming information is disclosed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo Ralehoko in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
The only hospitals with valid fire certificates are the Thelle Mogoerane and Bertha Gxowa hospitals. While the Jubilee and Odi hospitals claim they have valid certificates this is only for part of their buildings as they do not have fully functional fire detection systems.
Responsibility for fire compliance falls with the Department of Infrastructure Development (DID) and hospital CEOs. Fire assessments should be done annually by the local authority and by the DID, but this does not always happen, and those that are done do not result in compliant hospitals.
In the case of Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the last fire assessment was done in 2016 and they were found to be non-compliant. They recently engaged the City of Johannesburg and are awaiting the report on an inspection done in October last year.
Responses from other major hospitals include the following:
• Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital “only obtains a valid fire clearance if it complies with the relevant fire by-laws.”
• George Mukhari Hospital is non-compliant due to old infrastructure and lack of maintenance.
• Steve Biko Hospital – the “ancient architecture poses a problem in meeting the revised and safety latest requirements.”
• Tembisa Hospital – non-compliance of the hospital infrastructure (safety hazards) and insufficient fire equipment.
• Helen Joseph Hospital – no hospital floor plans and the fire detection does not cover not all areas.
• Kalafong Hospital – the hospital does not have floor plans.
• Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital – facility needs to be inspected and assessed for compliance, and a fire detection system needs to be installed.
• Edenvale Hospital – it was built in 1937, the last revamp was in 2006, and the fire safety systems are obsolete.
• Tambo Memorial Hospital – non-compliant with Ekurhuleni Emergency Services by-laws.
• Sebokeng Hospital – does not have functional fire equipment and insufficient emergency exits, and is awaiting the Department to do the inspection.
• Far East Rand Hospital – no emergency exit due to structural challenges, only some floors have emergency exit doors.
• South Rand Hospital – old infrastructure as it was built in 1954, and was declared non-compliant on 9 June 2021.
Some hospitals say they can be forced to stop operating if they are declared a fire hazard, while others claim they will remain open due to their critical mandate to provide health care.
There have been at least 8 Gauteng hospital fires in the last seven years. These occurred at the Charlotte Maxeke, Chris Hani Baragwanath, Steve Biko, Tambo, Bheki Mlangeni, and Carletonville hospitals, but none of them have adequate fire prevention measures to prevent a repeat.
It is scandalous that so little has been done to upgrade fire security at our hospitals. We need to know what firm measures are being taken to ensure staff and patients are protected from fire hazards.