A fire broke out at the University of the Philippines (UP) Philippine General Hospital (PGH) last Wednesday, March 13, affecting a two-story structure primarily occupied by the Medicine Department.

The fire reached first alarm at 3:08 pm and second alarm at 3:11 pm. Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Manila Fire District Senior Superintendent Christine Cula reported that the situation was brought under control by 3:45 pm and fully extinguished by 4:30 pm.

UP PGH has since resumed normal operations.

The estimated damage amounts to P1.4 million, as confirmed by the BFP. Fortunately, there were no fatalities or injuries among the hospital patients and staff.

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos lauded BFP’s response. “I would like to commend the BFP personnel for their swift action. As a result of their quick response, the fire was already declared under control, barely 45 minutes after it started.”

During his visit to UP PGH on Monday, March 18, Abalos also praised the hospital’s evacuation procedures. “In just 15 minutes, kaagad nilang nailikas ang mga tao. Ibig sabihin, may sistema sila. Napakaganda ng ginawa nila,” he told reporters.

(In just 15 minutes, they immediately evacuated the people. It means they have a system. What they did was very commendable.)

The fire’s origin, believed to be at the Medicine Department’s audiovisual room, is currently under investigation, with faulty electrical wiring as a probable cause.

“Maaaring sa kuryente po ito nagmula. Kasi, tandaan po natin na itong building ng PGH, ito’y ginawa pa noong 1910. Gano’n katagal,” Abalos explained.

(This may have originated from faulty electrical wiring. Because, let us remember that this building was constructed back in 1910. That long ago.)

“Magtutulungan po [kami]. Ipapatsek lahat ng mga kuryente, kung ano pa man iyon, maging iyong mga circuit breakers na kailangan para maiwasan na [ang pagkasunog] in the future,” he added.

(We will work together. We will check all the electrical wirings, whatever they may be, including the circuit breakers needed to prevent fires in the future.)

In an interview, BFP National Capital Region Regional Director Chief Superintendent Nahum Tarroza recommended an overhaul of PGH’s electrical system.

“Ang [electrical system] dito ay nása 100 years old na pataas. So kayâ po, [kailangang] totally change na, replacement na ng kuryente. Immediate na po dapat itong gawin,” Tarroza explained.

(The electrical system here is already 100 years old or more. So, it’s necessary to totally change it, to replace the wiring. This should be done immediately.)

While there were no reported casualties, UP PGH Director Gerardo Legaspi mentioned that some records and research papers were lost in the fire.

“Sa buong ward, wala pang 5 percent ang nasunog. Kasi maliit lang na conference room lang siya na naging opisina at storage ng aming records. Ang aming mga research ang maraming nawala. Mga papeles na naglalaman ng aming mga pananaliksik,” Legaspi told reporters.

(In the entire ward, less than 5 percent was burned. Because it was just a small conference room that served as an office and storage for our records. But, many of our research documents were lost. Papers containing our research.)

Moving forward, structural assessments by the BFP and UP PGH engineers will determine the safety and stability of affected wards.

UP PGH is considered the largest modern government tertiary hospital in the Philippines. It services over 600,000 patients annually, including thousands of indigent Filipinos nationwide.

The hospital has been under the supervision and control of UP since 1947, by virtue of former President Manuel Roxas’ Executive Order No. 94. — with Rex Espiritu

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