The cause of the fire that gutted The HIV clinic at LUTH is still unknown.By Ben Ezeamalu
Hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS, on Friday, crowded the Tuberculosis Centre at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) to collect their drugs after the outpatient HIV Clinic was gutted by fire the previous day.
The Direct Observation Therapy (DOT) Centre, which takes care of people suffering from Tuberculosis and where they go for their drugs every Friday, was not affected by the fire, contrary to some media reports.
The cause of the fire, which razed the wooden AIDS Prevention Initiative of Nigeria (APIN) structure to the ground, is still unknown, according to the hospital management.
“The cause I cannot tell you right now because management is still expecting the report from the fire service people that put out the fire,” said Hope Nwawolo, LUTH’s spokesperson.
“We are hoping that they will give us a full report as to the cause of the outbreak,” Mrs. Nwawolo added.
Current status of fire
On Friday morning, the fire had stopped but the smoke and smell of burnt wood remained.
Two men, wearing a pair of hand gloves, searched through the charred metal structure and partly burnt papers that littered the scene.
Tony (not his real name), one of the people who collects HIV drugs at the burnt structure, said that the centre was instrumental to the health of a lot of people.
“This (burnt) place saves the lives of billions of people,” Mr. Tony, who turned up to collect his tuberculosis drugs, told PREMIUM TIMES.
“You can see the millions of people who are waiting at the DOT Centre. I’m lucky I collected mine (HIV drugs) on Wednesday,” he added.
HOSPITAL RECORDS SAFE
The fire, which began at about 7 p.m., on Thursday, according to eye witnesses, destroyed hospital documents, computers, and medical equipment; raising concerns over the safety of records of the medical histories of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Tony said that the APIN centre housed their medical records – people living with HIV/AIDS are expected to do a medical check-up every three months to monitor the progress of their drugs and their records kept.
“So that if a particular drug is not working for an individual, he can be switched to another one. The records are all kept here. We only come with our cards,” he said.
But the LUTH management assured that “everything is under control.”
“Some of the case notes, the patients’ case notes, that were burnt, we also have them electronically backed up,” said Mrs. Nwawolo.
“So that has taken care of the patients’ data,” she added.
Mrs. Nwawolo also dispelled reports that a hospital ward was razed in the inferno, noting that it was “just an outpatient clinic.”
“It means that by the time the fire started, there was no patient there,” Mrs. Nwawolo said.
“We had just some of our doctors who were having a meeting. They were the only ones that were in that building and they were the ones that started the first attempt to put out the fire,” she added.
Keeps mum on fire service
The hospital’s spokesperson, however, refused to react to reports that the Lagos State Fire Service arrived at the fire scene with an empty tanker, and that there was a one hour wait before real help came.
“The situation right now is that our management has put up measures to ensure that our patients from that clinic still get their clinical services.
“I don’t want to begin to put the blame on anybody, what I know is that everybody made frantic efforts to curtail the fire to that one building,” she said.
Services continue unhindered
Meanwhile, the hospitals management has said that the fire incident would not affect its clinical services.
“All patients accessing drugs at the centre will continue to get their drugs free of charge,” the Chief Medical Director, Akin Oshibogun, said.
Mr. Oshibogun appealed to the patients to understand the situation on ground and bear with the management, promising that critically ill patients would be referred to the Accident and Emergency unit of the hospital.
The APIN clinic, which was built years ago as orthopedic unit, was later expanded and converted to an HIV/AIDS treatment and research facility centre.