On Friday morning at around 11:15, a fire erupted at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Emergency services evacuated over 410 patients to other hospitals as staff was asked to remove their cars from the parking basement.

DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health, Jack Bloom MPL, stated “Speedy investigation into the cause of the fire is needed, but it raises questions about the adequacy of occupational safety measures at this hospital which has a history of poor maintenance.”

After firefighters managed to get the blaze under control, on Friday night the fire reignited and emergency services once again had to control the scene. South Africans came together to assist in any way they could. Not only the city’s emergency services assisted, but also private emergency and security services and volunteering members of the public.

Crime in the chaos

During the fire and fire-control chaos, criminals took advantage of the situation. Cars and equipment were stolen and police arrived on the scene.

Hospital shutdown

On Saturday, a temporary shutdown of the hospital was announced:

Maintenance, service and security

In a 2019 press release by the City of Johannesburg (COJ), it stated it had 7 operational fire engines with 5 more which were in repairs. This statement was released after concerns were raised by the media about how many fire engines were operational. In this press release, the city stated:

“Following the termination of the previous contract the City initiated a new procurement process, or Fire Engine Replacement Program (FERP). Despite an initial setback in this process, with a preferred supplier withdrawing from the tender process, the FERP is currently in the process of being finalised and is expected to be concluded in the coming days. This will allow the City to place an order for 92 additional EMS vehicles, including fire and rescue vehicles, delivery of which will commence in the coming weeks.

This will be an unprecedented acquisition of fire engines for a municipality. This will result in the 30 fire stations in the City each receiving a new fire engine. Until these new vehicles are delivered, we will continue to ensure that the ones in workshops are repaired and returned to operation.”

Allegedly, Johannesburg currently only has between four and seven operational fire engines to service the city, as stated by a volunteer at the scene who wished to remain anonymous, and as reported by TimesLIVE.

This is of great concern to residents of Johannesburg, as service delivery is already in question.

This hospital fire came 2 days after a fire in a COJ building in Kaserne Informal Settlement, Johannesburg Central, killed 9 people including an infant. COJ said in a statement “We can confirm that 103 households made up of 135 individuals were affected. The 11 individuals that sustained injuries were taken to Charlotte Maxeke and Baragwanath Hospitals respectively, to seek medical attention.”

Investigation into the cause of the fire will hopefully reveal more details.

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