Fire destroys operating room at Berbice Ophthalmology Hospital

-eye surgeries affected

A fire suspected to be electrical in origin destroyed an operating room and an excimer laser at the National Ophthalmology Hos-pital in Port Mourant, Corentyne yesterday.

According to information reaching Stabroek News, at around 4am yesterday, hospital staff noticed a Guyana Power and Light (GPL) transformer sparking.

Subsequently, staff told investigators, between 4:30am and 5am, they saw smoke emanating from an operating room – Theatre Room 3 – located on the bottom flat of the medical centre and alerted the GPL emergency crew and the Guyana Fire Service.

The Rose Hall Town fire service responded promptly and began to fight the fire. Patients who were in the building were evacuated to safety. The firemen were later assisted by a crew from the New Amsterdam Fire Service.

Stabroek News was told that the excimer laser, which is used for conducting cataract surgeries, was significantly damaged. The destroyed machine is estimated to be worth over US$3000.

Sources said that the operating theatre was extensively damaged but could not give an estimate of the losses. Apart from the damage to the room, other equipment was also reportedly destroyed. At the scene yesterday, hospital officials were tightlipped and barred members of the media from the compound.

‘B’ Division Fire Chief Compton Sparman related to Stabroek News that after his station was alerted, they responded immediately treating the situation as a high-risk fire. Sparman recalled that after noticing the smoke emanating from the building, they called for backup from the New Amsterdam Fire Station and a crew responded promptly.

Sparman said that his team took over an hour to extinguish the fire as upon entering the building, they had to deal with the thick smoke while the layout of the building also posed difficulties.

He said that at that point, the origin of the fire is unknown and government electrical engineers are conducting their investigation and they would have to wait on the findings. He commended his crew and the police for a “job well done” noting that the lawmen did a great job in barring unwanted persons from encroaching on the scene.

It was noted that the fire service had received reports from persons stating that the GPL transformer was sparking and the wire had caught fire. Sparman said that such situations can be prevented and once persons notice such occurrences, they should contact the fire service as well as GPL.

Sources from the health facility told Stabroek News that from the moment they saw the transformers sparking, staff contacted the GPL emergency crew who showed up approximately three hours after the report was made. One source said that the person on the emergency crew who was contacted, related that he starts working at 7am. The emergency crew arrived at 7am and disconnected the building from the electricity grid.

It was observed that the crew was doing some work on the faulty transformer before reconnecting power to the building. Staff from AINLIM New Amsterdam also took precautions by removing gas cylinders from the medical centre until it was declared safe once again.

Sources at the hospital stated that they would be unable to proceed with any surgeries until further notice. However, clinics would resume as normal from today.

Stabroek News was informed that Ministry of Health and Regional officials including the Regional Chairman David Armogan and vice-chairman Bhopal Jagroo visited the scene. Investigations are continuing.

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