Another hospital fire in Malaysia: Small blaze at Ipoh hospital, no injuries

IPOH (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Smoke from a fire at a Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital ward caused a commotion and panic among the patients there.

In the 11.15pm incident at Ward 5B on Wednesday (Nov 9), most of the 43 patients there were believed to be sleeping when the fire broke out.

Amid the confusion, hospital staff and some family members of patients managed to put out the fire within minutes while patients were wheeled out to safety.

The incident occurred about two weeks after the tragic fire that killed six patients at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor.

Heart patient A. Augustin, 53, from Falim, said he was woken up by the smell of smoke.

"As I was abruptly woken up, I didn't know what was going on until I saw smoke.

"I was shocked to see it near my bed and didn't know what to do. I didn't see any fire but there were people trying to put out the smoke," Mr Augustin said, adding that he was admitted on Monday.

"I panicked and was pushed out on a wheelchair by a staff member," he said at the hospital on Thursday.

He was relocated to a waiting room next to the ward. The other patients were relocated to other wards.

The fire was believed to have started from a wiring system in a cubicle or dividing wall between the beds.

Perak Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said an investigation was underway to ascertain the cause of the fire, adding that the wiring was burnt.

"We will need to check all the wiring system at the hospital, taking into consideration the age and the condition of the hospital.

"If there's a need to change it, we will do so. The safety of the patients is our priority and we take this seriously," he said, adding that all patients were pushed out from the ward within 45 minutes.

Asked about a recommendation by the Fire and Rescue Department to change the wiring system in 2013, Dr Mah advised to wait for the outcome of the investigation.

In Taiping, State Health Department director Datuk Dr Juita Ghazalie said the fire happened due to a short circuit and based on initial investigations, she was told that the wiring was 35 years old.

Asked why no action was taken in 2013 after the Fire and Rescue Department recommended a change in the wiring system, Dr Juita said she was not the director then.

"The matter will be followed up pending the forensic report," she said at the Taiping Health Clinic.

Dr Juita said the Health Department would check the wiring systems of all 15 hospitals in the state to ensure no repeat of short circuit incidents.

In Kuala Lumpur, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the fires at HSA in Johor and Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh were isolated incidents.

He said although they might have the same causes, the incidents were not related to one another.

He also debunked rumours that the ministry would just replace the plugs and not the entire wiring in the block of HSA that caught fire.

"No. You cannot listen to rumours. I haven't received (the briefing) from the Fire Department," he said in Parliament on Thursday.