Wexford Hospital fire: Evacuated patients begin phased return

The process has begun to bring back some patients evacuated from fire-hit Wexford General Hospital .

spokeswoman said the first patients to return would include a number who had been transferred to University Hospital Waterford following the blaze on Wednesday.

“This is the first step in the process which will take several weeks,” said a spokeswoman for Wexford Hospital.

More than 90 patients had to be evacuated on Wednesday after a major blaze in the plant room, housing machinery, at the top of the hospital.

It led to extensive smoke and water damage as well part of the roof caving in before it was brought under control.

A large fleet of ambulances had to transfer patients, some serious ill, and bring them to Waterford, Kilkenny, Dublin, Cork and Navan in Meath.

Around 29 patients remained in the hospital and they will continue to receive care.

Maternity services resumed at the hospital today and two babies were born there safely.

Outpatient clinics will resume from Monday but other services including its emergency department remain closed and it will be weeks to months before it is fully operational again.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited the hospital yesterday and he said he was struck by the amount of personal belongings patients had to leave behind in the hurry to safety.

He said there was extensive damage and all financial resources needed to get it back up and running would be provided.

The hospital spokeswoman said the emergency department remained closed. “We are aware that the emergency department in Waterford is extremely busy.

“However, CareDoc have ensured that additional GPs during out of hours are available within the Wexford and Waterford area to prevent travel to Waterford’s emergency department from Wexford and for the Waterford Community to avail of alternative services. “

The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine , representing emergency consultants, yesterday said they commended the hospital and other staff involved in this herculean task of evacuating patients.

The difficulty of having to safely move so many patients, some ventilated, some confused and unable to help in their own evacuation, many with infusions running, and some having just given birth, should not be underestimated.

The fact that this was done in a safe, efficient and pre-planned way was a tribute to the staff involved, the effectiveness of the hospital’s fire plan and the prior training undertaken by the staff of  Wexford hospital, they said.

“Yet again, the event brought out the best in the emergency services with the Wexford County Fire  and  Rescue Service supported by other local fire services in extinguishing the fire. The evacuation resulted in patients being transferred to a number of other hospitals, some in excess of 200km away.

“This represented a major incident for the National Ambulance Service which had to deploy resources from a significant distance, bolstered by the assistance of Private and Voluntary Ambulance Services. The impact on already overstretched supporting hospitals also needs acknowledgement.

“In the permanently pressurised acute hospital environment with emergency departments often lodging scores of hospital inpatients and additional patients on wards being the new norm, activities such as fire training and exercising a hospital’s fire evacuation plan are easy targets to be long-fingered.

“Thankfully this short-sightedness was not the case in Wexford and the patients and staff that were in the hospital at the time of the fire have been the beneficiaries of this prudent approach to dealing with such an infrequent but potentially lethal event, “ the doctors added.


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