To see my tiny nurses and young doctors running up and down, taking full control of the situation and helping big people by themselves was a sight I will never, ever forget. I take my hat off to my young nurses and doctors. I salute them.
These were the words of the acting director of Nursing and Senior Matron at the Lautoka Hospital Milika Narogo.
She was speaking about the rescue efforts made by her staff after a fire broke out in the hospital’s operating theatre and engulfed sections of the building at 1.22am on Monday.
A total of 157 patients from all four floors had to be evacuated, directed by the 42 staff members who were on night shift duty.
Firefighters contained the blaze before it could engulf the entire hospital.
Senior Matron Narogo said they were able to evacuate everyone safely within 30 minutes and for this, she was grateful.
“When I got the call from the operator to come right away, she had already called the Police, the Fire Department and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces personnel.
“So when I turned up, within minutes they were all here and they had already put things in place like cordoning off areas and directing people and traffic. It was such a relief to see them.”
She added that she admired the courage of everyone involved in the evacuation.
“These brave people were lifting people over their shoulders; they were assisting them down the steps, and they were lifting people still lying on their mattresses and you could just hear the rip of the fabric, but they slowly and steadily made sure they had everyone out,” she said.
The patients were laid in the hospital car park in wards and sections which made things easier for the hospital staff.
“Everyone was accounted for. We are so thankful that no one lost their lives. Everyone was there,” she said.
“I was just so grateful to God that there was no rain. Because we were laying everyone down and if it had rained, it would have been a total disaster,” Ms Narogo said.
She was also thankful that the fire fighters were able to stop the fire before it spread to where the gas and oxygen cylinders were located.
“I was so worried that it would spread towards that area. Had it gone there, we would have all died,” an emotional Senior Matron said.
When the Fiji Sun team first caught up with her, she was still at work and was planning on going off duty later in the afternoon.
“The Medical Superintendent, myself and our General Services officer have been here from when we got the call about the fire till now. We want to make sure everything is sorted, the cleaning and relocations are taken care of before we go.”
At the height of the fire evacuation they had to also discharge 52 patients.
“Some patients just wanted to go home. And for that I am very thankful to the Police Department for transporting those who needed to go home. They (Police) took patients who needed to go home to Nadi.” She said.
Senior Matron Narogo is also happy with the response of Government.
“I admire the way the three services worked together so well; the military took charge straight away, the Police and the firefighters just got on with the job and everything just flowed. I sincerely want to thank them.
“Just imagine, in 30 minutes we evacuated everyone. And the fire took two hours to put out. That just shows how well they worked together and assisted the hospital staff.”
At the hospital, a major clean up was being carried out and people were seen washing down walls and trying to dry out water that flooded the floors.