How firefighters rescued patients from ICU wards
On an ordinary day, a hospital is a sombre place. Add to that a life-threatening emergency like a fire breakout and you get a horror scene.
“It was like something straight out of a movie.”
That is how Farida Kavere, an emergency medical technician and fire-fighter at the Kenya Ports Authority, described the rescue scene at the Mombasa Hospital when a fire broke out on Tuesday evening.
“Nurses were rushing into the wards and coming out carrying patients. Horrified patients were running out holding drip infusion bottles in their hands. Those who could not walk were crawling towards the door. Everyone was doing whatever they could to save dear life,” Kavere recalled.
There were patients in the ward, however, who were too ill to even notice the raging fire and billowing smoke. Some patients were in the intensive and high-dependency units.
There were also helpless children and newborns who were in incubators. Those were the ones that most needed Kavere’s and her colleagues’ help.
Kavere said she helped rescue three patients trapped at the high dependency unit and at baby incubators.
“We were the second team of fire fighters to arrive at the scene. One of the Mombasa County fire engines had run out of water and we were just on time,” she recalled.
But at some point, some of the firefighters decided that evacuating patients from the wards was more practical than trying to put out the fire.
“The fire was spreading fast and we had to act quickly to save lives. With my colleague Chrispine Makoha, we ran into the ICU wards to help the patients to safety,” she said.
They found the room pitch-dark because power had been switched off and the only thing they could use to find their way around was the alarm sounds from ICU monitors.
“Luckily, I had my phone torch on. We safely removed two newborns from an incubator and run out with them to the waiting ambulances,” she said.
She said they also rescued an 11-year-old girl who was in the high-dependency unit.
The Mombasa Hospital management said yesterday that some 68 patients were evacuated to other medical facilities.
Officials also denied reports that a gas cylinder explosion caused the night inferno.
The hospital says that the fire, which started at around 8pm was put out by firefighters from the Mombasa County Government and KPA with the help of the National Youth Service and the Kenya Navy.
“The fire started at the female ward and we are not sure what caused it. There was no explosion,” said hospital deputy administrator Samson Bebora.
Initially, Coast Regional Police Commander Rashid Yakub had said investigations had shown the fire started in the kitchen.
Bebora confirmed that no one was injured in the fire, even though half of the facility was destroyed. Medical equipment worth millions of shillings also went up in smoke.
“No life was lost and we want to thank all hospitals in Mombasa that took in our patients, firefighters and organisations that came out to help,” he said.
Bebora said the hospital’s nurses accompanied the patients to the medical facilities where they were moved to ensure their treatment was not interrupted.
Patients were transferred to Aga Khan, Pandya Memorial Hospital, Premier Hospital, Jocham and Coast Provincial General Hospital.
“We are waiting for the opinion of experts on what may have caused the fire. We also need to know how safe the facility is and whether we can resume services,” said Bebora.
Besides the male and female wards which were totally destroyed, the physiotherapy, switchboard, reception and maternity areas are also inaccessible.
Bebora said consultation rooms for the doctors remain open and the outpatient services have already resumed.
“Quite a large area was not affected so we have resumed outpatient services,” he added.
Joseph Odongo, the chief medical officer, said his staff was doing an inventory to ascertain which medical equipment were destroyed in the fire.