A fire broke out at Great Ormond Street Hospital yesterday morning at approximately 8.35am, causing an explosion. The cause is not yet known, but the fire started in the Cardiac wing on the fifth floor and it has been suggested a flame ignited an oxygen cylinder. A Hospital representative told reporters,
“There was a fire in our cardiac block this morning that seemed to have led to an explosion, probably that of a medical gas cylinder.”
The hospital had to be evacuated and children under anaesthetic awaiting surgery had to be woken. The hospital’s chief executive Jane Collins said,
“This is totally different from any incident we have had to deal with before. There were some children who were due to have surgery so they were being anaesthetised. They were woken up as it was deemed to be too risky to go ahead with the surgery.”
Thankfully no patients or staff were injured during the incident but four fire fighters were receiving treatment for smoke inhalation and other minor injuries.
Six fire engines and 30 fire fighters were called onto the scene near Russell Square in Central London to put the fire out. A total of 23 patients and 12 staff members were evacuated. A member of the London Fire Brigade said, “Firefighters swiftly brought the fire under control”.
Late yesterday Hospital authorities were investigating the total damage and cost of the fire to the fourth and fifth wards. The cardiac unit may have to remain closed for some time. Some patients will be transferred to nearby hospitals including Brompton Hospital and Guys Hospital. Priority will be given to those in need of urgent operations.
All planned operations had to be put on hold and day appointments and out patients were also cancelled. The hospital re-opened for emergencies only by late afternoon. A full investigation was launched after the police cordon was removed at midday.
Concerned families had to wait patiently for treatment to resume. Philip Dennis’ ten month old son, Theo, was in intensive care due to a heart condition. The 37 year old health and safety adviser said,
“The hospital phoned us and told us he is sleeping soundly. They have been very good in keeping us informed and we just want to be let in to see him as soon as possible,”
Some families were left feeling emotional and frustrated. One couple, Robert and Joy Hayman had travelled from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk to hear the eagerly awaited results of tests carried out in the specialist cardiac unit (opened in 1986) for their one year old son.
“We were up at 5.30am this morning to make it here in time for our appointment today,” he said. “It is the last thing we need really at a time like this.”
The incident at Great Ormond Street follows another major London hospital fire earlier this year in January at the Royal Marsden Hospital. Over 300 people had to be evacuated and damage was caused to five operating theatres, two wards and a large proportion of the roof.