Hospitals must be given crash course by firemen

Penang Hospital Visitors' Board Chairman Lim Thoon DeongGEORGE TOWN: Firemen should step in to train government hospitals on basic fire safety and hazards, before more tangible measures are implemented by the government to counter fire risks, Penang Hospital Visitors’ Board Chairman Lim Thoon Deong said.

Lim said before the safety audit announced by Health Minister S Subramaniam could begin, respective Fire and Rescue Departments in all states can begin by giving intensive courses to hospitals.

He said this was of paramount importance, in view of the tragic fire that took the life of six patients at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru on Tuesday. The same hospital had another fire incident within 24 hours, but that was contained quickly.

Lim also called on the government to approve immediate funding to have all wiring at old general hospitals replaced immediately, as the incidents were likely caused by electrical wiring faults or short circuits.

“All hospital staff should be trained and made aware of how to handle fire hazards, as well as the type of extinguishers to use and where to go in case of an evacuation.

“All procedures pertaining to the prevention of fires from taking place should be implemented, adhered to and reviewed from time to time to ensure hospital safety,” Lim told FMT.

He also agreed to the call by a Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) researcher who called for an urgent fire safety audit following the incident, stressing the need for the government to approve the funds for such action.

Lim’s 27-member visitors’ board serves as advisers to the Penang Hospital on patients’ and staff welfare. They are appointed by the Health Ministry.

On Tuesday, a fire broke out at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Sultanah Aminah Hospital, killing six patients.

Johor Baru (South) Police Chief ACP Sulaiman Salleh told the media that authorities were still investigating the cause of the incident, adding that initial investigations showed it could have been due to a short circuit.

Before the dust had settled on the first fire, another fire broke out at an operating theatre in the accident and trauma ward of the hospital on Wednesday.

Police had revealed that water had come into contact with a electrical wall socket at the OT, causing flames to spark. Fortunately, the fire was contained and no one was hurt.

The fire incidents have resulted in the Health Ministry ordering all government hospitals to set-up committees to tackle fire related issues and devise proper evacuation plans.