A fire erupted at the Soufriere hospital on Saturday, Dec. 2, at about 7 p.m., causing extensive structural damage and the loss of vital pieces of equipment and supplies. This is the second fire to have occurred at the hospital in less than four weeks.
The previous fire, reported on Nov. 9, was quickly contained by the swift action of staff, the residents of Soufriere, and fire officials. It caused little damage to the facility. The second fire, however, developed into a torrid blaze that raged to the back of the facility.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Merlene Fredericks, and other senior health officials were on hand to assess the extent of the damage, and to put in place an emergency plan of action for the continuation of health services for the people of Soufriere and environs.
“We lost the mental health section, the maternity section, and a fully stocked storeroom with medical supplies. We also lost some new equipment funded by the 10th European Development Fund," Dr Fredericks said.
Investigations have begun into the cause of the fire and although the primary healthcare section of the hospital was not damaged, all salvageable items within the facility will be removed and relocated until both the investigation and an assessment of the damage has been completed.
The CMO also reported that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) had been alerted to the fire as replacement supplies and equipment may need to be procured.
The Minister for Health and Wellness Sen Hon Mary Isaac extended her sympathies to the people of Soufriere. She assured however that her health team is moving swiftly to relocate all services.
"Our medical team is doing their best to ensure that services offered at the Soufriere hospital continue uninterrupted at different facilities,” she said. “Counseling services will be made available to anyone who may be traumatized as a result of these events. I wish to thank Fr. Albert for allowing us to use St. Isidore's Hall as our outpost for non-emergencies such as mental wellness, and the treatment of non-communicable diseases, and to everyone else whose spirit is with us as we go through this tragedy, I say thank you. I ask that the people of Soufriere and all of Saint Lucia bear with us as we continue to ensure that we maintain peace and tranquility on our beautiful island."
Meanwhile, Principal Nursing Officer, Kerthney Surage, outlined the immediate plan of action for the continuation of services.
"Emergency services will now be offered from the Etangs Wellness Centre. Etangs will be operating on a 24hr basis. All primary healthcare services will be relocated to St Isidore's Hall, which is in the middle of the town of Soufriere. We will be operating from this site from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays."
The PNO added that due to the fire, the Soufriere hospital has been decommissioned, and the arrangements temporary, until a longer lasting solution is arrived at.