KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A fire audit will be carried out on all hospitals in Malaysia under the Health Ministry, starting with the oldest and those at high risk.
This was necessary to prevent incidents like Tuesday's (Oct 25) blaze at the Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
"The hospitals and concessionaires have to set up a committee to look at how to manage a fire if it happens. And that includes an evacuation plan," he said.
Each hospital could draw up its own mechanism but the principle was already outlined in existing guidelines, he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Wednesday.
He said the ministry would also check for any differences in fire safety practices between public and private hospitals. Improvements would be made where necessary, he added.
Dr Subramaniam acknowledged that there had been many requests from public hospitals to upgrade medical equipment and facilities but no requests were made concerning infrastructure.
"The ministry has many requests to upgrade aging assets. It is a continuous process and we attend to them according to priority, based on urgency and funding," he said.
On the special committee set up by the ministry to investigate the fire, Dr Subramaniam hoped it would be able to find the cause as soon as possible.
"I hope the committee can also give guidelines and make improvements on safety systems, and step up periodic monitoring in the hospital for the safety of patients and staff members," he said.
Earlier in the Dewan Rakyat, Dr Subramaniam tabled a ministerial paper on the fire which killed six of seven patients in the intensive care unit on Tuesday morning.
Besides extending his condolences to the next of kin of those who died in the blaze, he thanked two hospital nurses and a physiotherapy student for their courageous act of rescuing patients. He said their brave actions which put them at risk was "very noble and much appreciated".
The rescuers suffered lung injuries due to extended smoke inhalation.
"They have been warded at the Hospital Sultan Ismail intensive care unit, along with seven other staff members and one patient whom they saved," said Dr Subramaniam.
He also commended the efforts of all hospital staff members who moved the 477 patients to safety, and for keeping to the fire and disaster protocols.