Minor HSA Fire Forces Temporary Closure Of General Operating Theatre

A minor fire outbreak at the compressor room next to the main building of Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) in JB around 9am today forced the temporary closure of HSA’s general OT. HSA also suffers frequent water and power cuts, says a medical staff member.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 – Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru Hospital (HSA) has shuttered its general operating theatre temporarily, after a small fire outbreak at the public hospital this morning.

The fire broke out at the compressor room next to the main building of the Ministry of Health (MOH) hospital in the Johor state capital, somewhere around 9am, staff said.

“It’s so frequent that it’s not really news to us anymore,” a medical staff member from HSA told CodeBlue today on condition of anonymity, as civil servants are prohibited from speaking to the press.

“One day, you may find us burnt as barbecued.”

A video shared by the staff with CodeBlue showed smoke coming out from the compressor room, amid the sounds of a fire alarm.

The staff said the fire had already been put out, though they were unsure if it had been put out by hospital staff or the Fire and Rescue Department.

But HSA’s general operating theatre has been shuttered for the time being due to the fire incident, the staff added.

According to the HSA medical staff, other minor fire outbreaks at the public hospital previously broke out last year on July 14 and February 22. These were not publicly reported by MOH.

A previous fire outbreak at HSA on June 28, 2020 – which caused the evacuation of 24 patients from the women’s ward, but did not result in casualties – was publicly reported by MOH officials and Bomba, which saw then-Health Minister Dr Adham Baba visiting the site.

The HSA staff member interviewed by CodeBlue said electricity and water service interruptions at the wards of the major Johor public hospital were a bigger concern than recurrent fire outbreaks.

“Sometimes clean water supply gets cut off; sometimes electricity trips. This is a state tertiary referral centre, the second busiest, yet the resources we receive are far less than the Klang Valley,” the HSA medical staff lamented.

“Can you believe it – sometimes we have to collect water beforehand.

“Power blackouts are frequent in HSA, sometimes while procedures are ongoing. We heard that sometime earlier this year, it occurred in the middle of a surgery. Luckily, the operation was finishing, and no immediate complication happened and no gross harm happened to patients. Handphone light was helpful though.

“But how often are we going to depend on this so-called ‘luck’ to prevent harm due to system failure?”

The HSA medical staff member urged the government to publish the independent committee’s report on the October 25, 2016 fire tragedy at HSA’s south intensive care unit (ICU) that killed six patients, the worst hospital fire in Malaysian history.

“More importantly is actions to be taken so that we feel safe treating the patients and patients feel safe with us, knowing the building won’t collapse on them.”

Successive health ministers, including current Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, have yet to release the report by the independent committee chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, ever since it was handed to the MOH under the Pakatan Harapan administration in 2018.

CodeBlue, which sighted the independent committee’s 225-page report on the 2016 fire tragedy at HSA, reported in 2020 that the inquiry had singled out the lack of preparedness by hospital management and staff as one of the underlying causes of the deaths from the fire, as the South ICU staff were not trained in fire drills or emergency evacuation.

HSA also did not have a fire certificate.

The independent committee found that before the fatal October 25, 2016 fire at the south ICU, four previous fire outbreaks had occurred at the same ward in 2008, 2010, and May and October 14, 2016.

The inquiry also said in its report that the circuit protective conductors (CPCs) for HSA’s ICU electrical system had been disconnected from the earth terminal, an illegal act that posed a “serious danger” of electrical fire in the event of an overcurrent.

CodeBlue has requested details from MOH’s corporate communications unit in Putrajaya on today’s fire incident at HSA, including confirmation on whether the public hospital still does not have a fire certificate.

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