By C.Y. Kwanue and Joaquin Sendolo
Doctors, nurses and patients at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Memorial Hospital in Monrovia were last night hurried out of the building by security guards when the Cholera Unit (left wing), which is adjacent to the National Drug Service (NDS) and the hospital’s mortuary, was gutted by fire.
The fire, according eyewitness account, reportedly destroyed the unit’s electrical panel boxes and several important documents including patients’ medical records.
Although no human casualty was reported, the Daily Observer gathered that when doctors who were on duty spotted the flames, they hurriedly relocated to safety.
Eyewitnesses said that save for the bravery of security guards attached to the hospital and onlookers who buttressed the efforts of firefighters, the situation wouldn’t have been easily brought under control.
“The situation was quickly brought under control in less than two hours,” one of our sources stated.
However, our sources could not emphatically say there were any human casualties.
The alarm on the fire incident at the JFK, which started after 9 p.m. yesterday, Tuesday, was raised when residents of 20th and 24th streets in Sinkor saw heavy flame coming from the direction of the hospital.
The cause of the fire has not been established, but security officers and employees at the medical center told the Daily Observer that the fire began in the laboratory where drugs and other essential medical equipment are stored.
“It is a huge damage to the hospital because this is where drugs and major equipment used in laboratory are kept,” a worker said.
The fire continued blazing up to 11 p.m. despite efforts by the Liberia Fire Service and their counterparts to contain the violent flames.
Up to press time, it was not clear to what extent was the damage caused by the fire to the facility.
It may be recalled that the recent history of fire disasters at government establishments in the country may be traced to the July 26, 2006 celebration of 159th independence anniversary, during President Sirleaf’s first year in office, when the fourth floor of the Executive Mansion was gutted by fire.
Since that incident, President Sirleaf moved her office to the 6th Floor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she has since remained in spite of the two fire incidents that later occurred in the building.
The John F. Kennedy Medical Center is the national medical center of Liberia, located in the Sinkor District of Monrovia. The Center was built at the request of Liberian President William V.S. Tubman, whose 1961 visit with U.S. President John F. Kennedy laid the groundwork for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding for a national medical center in Liberia. The project was funded with a US$6.8 million loan and US$9.2 million in grants from USAID and a US$1 million contribution from the Liberian government. Construction began in 1965 and the facility opened on July 27, 1971.