Saturday 20 July 2019

Fire risks identified at Kanturk hospital

HIQA report expresses concerns over fire safety protocols at Kanturk hospital - risks identified on three occasions

Bill Browne

A report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has found the "totality of the fire risks" encountered during an unannounced inspection at Kanturk Community Hospital last August had "raised concerns about fire safety management" at the facility. 

The report - undertaken to specifically assess fire safety at the centre, with a particular emphasis on evacuation in the event of an incident - found that HIQA inspectors were "not assured that the fire safety arrangements in place were adequate to ensure prompt, safe and effective evacuation of residents in the event of a fire." 

The report noted that the hospital was "substantially compliant" in areas such as arrangements for maintaining and testing fire equipment; arrangements for detecting, containing and extinguishing fires and that procedures to be followed in the event of a fire were displayed in a prominent place.

But the report found that risks had been identified and documented on three previous occasions, and while interim works were recommended by the HSE fire and estates officer, "there was no evidence of follow up from the governance structure to ensure the identified risks were mitigated". 

It found that existing control measures included a review of the building and associated remedial works.  Additional measures included a suite of proposals, such as a reduction in bed numbers, the widening of exit doors and the commissioning of a fire safety risk assessment of the building "as one has not been carried out since 2011".

"The additional control measures had not been implemented in spite of the due date being 'as soon as possible'", read the report. 

Other findings  included that the alarm system did not provide coverage in some stores and lobbies; a gas shut-off had been set up but not connected to the fire alarm system (as per a  2016 recommendation); and that 34 of the 56 staff members at the facility had not attended appropriate fire safety training within the past 12 months.  Of these, four were found not to have attended training since 2015. 

While inspectors found that escape routes were, for the most part, kept clear and available for use, they said the main issue of concern was the ability of staff to evacuate residents. The report also found that, while staff demonstrated a good knowledge of evacuation techniques, they had indicated to inspectors they were "not confident" they could evacuate all residents. 

They noted particular difficulty in moving beds through doorways in some of the multi-bedded rooms. From talking to staff, inspectors also found that "there was not a clear system in place to determine who was in charge in terms of making decisions" should a fire happen. 

As fire drills simulated night-time-only scenarios (considered to be the time of highest risk from a resource perspective) some staff were unsure of the procedures for evacuation during the day. 

Inspectors also noted deficiencies to some fire doors  - examples of which included doors not fully closing; heat and smoke seals partially missing; and gaps around doors - and in-house fire safety checks required review to "ensure they were of adequate extent, frequency and detail". 

In response to the report, it was stated that the HSE's National Service Improvement Team had been engaged to conduct a "comprehensive review" of the current management team at the hospital to "ensure clear lines of authority and accountability" and that the service provided was "safe, appropriate, consistent and effectively monitored".

The report is available at