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Charlotte Maxeke hospital fire: DA suspects sabotage

The DA has called for a thorough investigation into the cause of a fire at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg, which is recovering from an inferno last year. File picture: Gauteng Department of Health

The DA has called for a thorough investigation into the cause of a fire at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg, which is recovering from an inferno last year. File picture: Gauteng Department of Health

Published Jul 6, 2022

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Pretoria – The DA has called for a thorough investigation into the fire at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital on Tuesday night as the facility is still under refurbishment after it was gutted by an inferno last year.

“I am horrified that there was another fire at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital last night. From reports sent to me, it appears to have been outside the main building but affected a parking lot,” said DA spokesperson on health in Gauteng, Jack Bloom.

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“Smoke can be seen in the parking lot under the hospital in videos that have been circulating. The fire was fortunately put out by the fire services.”

Bloom said “it is unbelievable that another fire could start at this hospital, which spends R40 million a year on security”.

The opposition party said it smells a rat, following the reported fires at health facilities across the province.

“A full investigation is needed, and sabotage should definitely be suspected. And yet we still do not have a report on the devastating fire at the hospital in April last year that started in a storeroom. Many staff members think that this was deliberately done to cover up the evidence of corruption,” said Bloom.

“This is the fourth fire at a Gauteng public hospital this year. There was a fire at temporary structures of the Steve Biko (Academic) Hospital on 30 May this year, and there was a blaze in a linen closet in a medical ward there on 12 June. Two weeks ago, a fire occurred at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital near the Covid-19 tents, and it spread to the laundry site before being put out.”

Bloom said that in the last seven years there have been nine fires in Gauteng hospitals, “as well as the unexplained fire at the Gauteng Health head office” which burned down the Bank of Lisbon building and killed three firefighters.

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“We need answers from the Gauteng Health Department as to why there are so many fires and what is being done to prevent them. The non-release of fire investigation reports looks more and more like a cover-up, and the DA will continue to press for them to be made public,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Gauteng Department of Health said the smouldering fire, which was detected in an unused parking bay at Charlotte Maxeke hospital, had been brought under control.

“Late on Tuesday night, security personnel reported that there was smoke that seemed to be coming from one of the structures. Firefighters for the City of Joburg immediately responded to the situation and managed to contain the fire, which was confined to a small section of the level two parking,” said Gauteng Health Department spokesperson Motalatale Modiba.

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He said police officers from the Hillbrow police station also attended the scene.

“The level two parking is one of the areas that was affected by the April 2021 fire and is currently under props and not accessible to the public or staff except for construction people,” said Modiba.

“Upon assessment of the situation, clinicians on site together with the facility’s head of disaster made a call that the situation did not warrant for patients to be evacuated as the smoke from the fire was not too thick or high risk for inhalation.”

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He said services at the facility continue to be rendered “as normal”.

“The status quo is currently being closely monitored by the multidisciplinary team that is on site to further assess the situation. The cause of the fire is being investigated,” said Modiba.

In August, the Gauteng Department of Health opened a case of theft at the Hillbrow police station in Johannesburg after several appliances were stolen from the Charlotte Maxeke hospital following a fire outbreak.

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