Gone in Smoke

Healthbeat 1998 No. 4.jpgHealthbeat 1998 No. 4.jpg

At least 25 people, mostly patients, died at the fire that gutted the state-owned Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) in Quezon City on May 16. Most of the dead were patients trapped in the hospital’s surgical and medical intensive care units.

The DOH disclosed that the hospital had about 180 patients when the fire broke out. Survivors were led out of the hospital through stretchers and wheelchairs by hospital staff. The surviving patients were transferred to the Philippine Heart Center, East Avenue Medical Center, Philippine General Hospital and five other hospitals in Metro Manila.

The 13-hour fire damaged about 80 to 90 percent of LCP’s two-wing building. Valuable records and expensive state-of-the-art equipment were also burned. According to investigators, faulty wiring and arson were two of the possible causes of the fire. The said fire that gutted some P2 billion worth of infrastructure and medical facilities also spread to portions of the adjoining National Kidney and Transplant Institute.

Then President Fidel Ramos released P2 million from the President’s Social Fund and the DOH budget for rescue and relief operations.

The militant Alliance of Health Workers linked the fire to the government’s plan to sell the hospital to the private sector. Although then Health Secretary Reodica confirmed that there was such as a plan, she dismissed the talk about arson as just mere speculation at that time.

To allay fears of unemployment, the 576 LCP doctors and personnel were temporarily deployed by the DOH to other government hospitals and the DOH Central Office while the LCP is being repaired.

The country’s specialty centers for lung health was established on January 13, 1976. The said fire was Metro Manila’s worst fire since the Ozone disco fire in March 1996 that killed 160 people.