Timeline | Little progress in the 12 months since fire ravaged Charlotte Maxeke hospital

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Repair works continue at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. Photo: Sthembiso Lebuso
Repair works continue at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. Photo: Sthembiso Lebuso


APRIL 16 2021

Fire breaks out at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital

On Friday, April 16 2021, at around 11am, a fire broke out at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. Authorities told City Press that they were investigating the cause of the fire that broke out in a special dispensary storage and led to the displacement of 700 patients and the destruction of more than R23 million worth of medical supplies.

READ: Was fire at Charlotte Maxeke hospital foul-play?


Firefighters struggle to battle the blaze

Firefighters battled to extinguish the fire, the lack of a fire hydrant making the situation difficult.

“At the time when the hospital was built, a fire hydrant on site wasn’t [considered] necessary … [The one that was used by the firefighters] isn’t 5km away,” Gauteng Infrastructure Development and Property Management MEC Tasneem Motara said.

A report by Spotlight revealed that the absence of a fire hydrant was just one of the many battles firefighters faced. According to the report, fire doors that are used to prevent the spread of smoke in a building when there is a fire were not working. Firefighters also struggled to connect their fire engines to the hydrants because couplings used to make those connections had been stolen.


Hospital shuts down

Gauteng Premier David Makhura closed the hospital for seven days.

“The best thing to do is go to the nearest other hospitals. We advise people not to come here to collect medication or to see doctors,” the premier said.


Multiple delays in reopening

The hospital was first set to open in May, but, by June, Makhura was calling for a local state of disaster as delays continued.

As Covid-19 cases spiked, the premier said that a local state of disaster was needed to get the hospital opened. He said the delays were caused by outstanding infrastructure compliance matters.

READ: Makhura calls for local state of disaster to reopen Charlotte Maxeke Hospital


Staggered opening fails

The oncology department was set to open in early June, but this was pushed back to July.

“The delay was caused by the approval of the radiation and oncology unit by the City of Johannesburg, which was dependent on the acquisition of fire doors, which were long-lead items,” Gauteng infrastructure development department spokesperson Bongiwe Gambu said.

READ: Charlotte Maxeke hospital reopening pushed back – again


Truth about delays emerges

After the oncology unit was opened in July, the truth about the extent of the damage and how long the repairs were going to take was revealed when Motara replied to questions in the Gauteng legislature.

The MEC said the full extent of the damage would be determined by “the outcome of the forensic investigation and the detailed structural investigation recommendations”.

READ: Parts of Charlotte Maxeke hospital to reopen in 2023 - infrastructure dept


Flooding adds to woes

Patients had to be moved when several wards flooded after a roof-level pipe burst.

DA member of the Gauteng health portfolio committee Jack Bloom said the flooding was “a further setback to getting the hospital back to full operation”.

READ: Another blow to Charlotte Maxeke Hospital infrastructure as wards flood

FEBRUARY 17 2022

Officials suspended, chaos reigns

In February, it was revealed that chaos reigned supreme as the department of health and that of infrastructure and development could not agree on the scope or budget required to get the hospital up and running.

Thabo Masebe, the health department’s acting director-general, revealed that the cause of the fire was still unknown.

Masebe said the slow pace of refurbishments was partially due to corruption involving senior government officials, whom the department subsequently suspended.

READ: Delays to Charlotte Maxeke Hospital repairs blamed on officials implicated in SIU investigation


National government takes over

Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced that his department had taken over the responsibility of getting Charlotte Maxeke hospital up and running. A total R100 million was allocated to the project, with R10 million for the fire repairs.

In an interview with eNCA, Phaahla said the provincial department of infrastructure and development would no longer be involved in the project.

The provincial government is, however, still involved in the project.

“The fact of the matter is that there has been little progress under their guard. They need to be excused.”


Foul play delays progress

It was a sad day when “the almost ready emergency unit was damaged when people got in and destroyed equipment”.

Phaahla said it was a clear act of sabotage. Charlotte Maxeke head of internal medicine Adam Mahomed confirmed the sabotage, saying there was ongoing theft of copper piping and electrical cables, with piping worth R30 million reportedly stolen.


New opening date

The health minister announced a new date for the completion of works at the hospital. Phaahla said that government was working with donors including the Solidarity Fund and Gift of the Givers. He also announced that the emergency unit was expected to be back up and running from the middle of April 2022.

READ: New deadline to fix Charlotte Maxeke hospital


Sthembiso Lebuso 


+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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