Part of Lethem hospital gutted by fire

-losses estimated at millions

Residents of the border community of Lethem yesterday managed to contain an early morning fire which gutted a section of the regional hospital in the Region 9 community.

Reports are that sometime after 4:30 am yesterday a resident observed smoke emanating from an air-conditioning unit in the area which housed the pharmacy at the hospital. The unit was soon engulfed in flames and residents used a sledgehammer to dislodge it, however the fire had already spread to the ceiling and the flooring in the building.

Residents then broke the walls under the air-conditioning unit in order to gain access to the building.

Ronald Harsawack

Regional Executive Officer of the region,  Ronald Harsawack told this newspaper yesterday that the fire damaged the entire pharmacy of the hospital. He said that  “a lot of equipment was damaged, fixtures and bio-medical equipment among other items”. The REO noted that the area is one of a few which was used as a storage facility for drugs and according to him while no figure was tagged to the losses, “millions of dollars will be needed to rebuild the structure alone”.

He said that there were internal responses to the fire from hospital staff who utilized fire extinguishers while three water pumps were in use simultaneously. He said that he was notified by the police later in the day that members of the Guyana Fire Service were expected to visit the region in order to investigate the incident.

The Lethem Hospital was opened in 2009.

According to an eyewitness, residents hurriedly placed hoses which were connected to the  water pumps at the scene but the improvising was not “too effective” and a bucket brigade immediately sprang into operation. Persons then used a ladder and climbed onto the roof and later ripped open the ceiling to douse the area which was already engulfed in flames, a resident noted.

Patients at the hospital were also evacuated while the fire was being contained and reports are that the army and police arrived at the scene and maintained law and order. For most of yesterday the area was cordoned off by the police.

Businessman Carlton Beckles who lives nearby was praised for his efforts as he was instrumental in rounding up volunteers as well as equipment to contain the fire. Residents yesterday called on the authorities to speed up planning for the placement of a fire rescue unit in the community. An angry Central Lethem resident told Stabroek News that there was “a lot of politicking” in the region and he noted that  while “they are using public servants, including doctors to put up party posters they could have been doing more important things to develop this community”.

According to a resident, sometime after the major fire which gutted the Wyka Store in the community last year, there were concerted efforts to create a plan which would have seen a fire unit being established in the community. It was noted that the Guyana Fire Service had approached the business community with the proposal and reports are that the plan included the identification of some 20 persons to be trained as firemen.

However, such plans fizzled due to a lack of interest and it was noted yesterday by a resident that the establishment of a fire-fighting facility was necessary since Lethem was identified as a future town.

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