Editorial comment – Lessons learnt

The fire that caused some panic and chaos at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva would have left some lessons for the powers that be.

First up though, acknowledgement is due to the work by those tasked to assist relocate patients in the midst of all that.

Family members of patients vented anger and frustration, claiming there was a “lack of communication between staff and patients”. Virisila Tiko was with her mother who was a patient when the fire alarm was raised.

She claimed there were no directions given and questioned whether there was an evacuation plan in place to assist patients who were alone when the fire broke out at the hospital’s boiler room.

She believes patients were fortunate because the incident happened during visiting hours, and family members were able to assist their loved one.

“I was not even sure where to take my mother,” she said. “The only thing I heard was to take her outside.

“I was able to help her out easily with the help of some police officers and we were told on our way out to wait around the car park area.”

Iminiasi Qoro, a father of two, said he was on his way to check on his wife at the maternity ward when he saw mothers and patients outside the hospital car park.

Mr Qoro said his wife gave birth two days ago and he was on his way to pick them up from the hospital.

“I was scared and also angry at the same time because I saw my wife and other women who had just given birth outside the hospital and there was no allocated area for them to at least sit, especially for the new mothers,” he said.

The ministry, he insisted, should seriously look into the issue. At a press conference though, Assistant Health Minister Alex O’Connor said, “everything was safely and smoothly undertaken”.

CWM Hospital head of obstetrics and gynaecology unit Dr James Fong said in such an emergency it was expected that there would be a certain level of chaos initially.

Scenes of patients with bandaged legs and heads, on wheelchairs, some still holding their urine bags and some lying on mattresses at the car park, some on the roadside opposite the hospital, were witnessed during the evacuation operation by doctors, nurses, ward assistants, police officers and members of the public.

“As with any unpredictable emergency event, it is what we expect, that there will be a certain level of chaos initially,” he said.

Dr Fong said the initial confusion was only because there was an unpredictable big emergency, otherwise the staff members knew where to put patients.

If there is one thing that stood out, it has to be the initial confusion.

The fact that there was no casualty and no other major incident involving patients is a positive thing.

We would hope the powers that be are receptive to criticism and take appropriate action to ensure any future emergency is dealt with effectively.

Communication obviously is key and that should include awareness and tested processes and evacuation procedures for all stakeholders.

There has to be some contingency plan in place that embraces everyone who may be involved at any time in an emergency at all our hospitals around the country.

More Stories