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74 mental health patients take shelter at Community College

74 mental health patients take shelter at Community College


Government officials will not apologize for shutting down operations at the Community College’s Division of Arts, Sciences and General Studies for one day to house patients of the Mental Health Centre (MHC) who were dislodged by fire.{{more}}

So says Howie Prince, Director of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), at a press conference held at the Ministry of Health and Environment Conference Room last Tuesday morning.

Updating Vincentians on an overnight fire at the MCH that caused 74 patients (46 females and 28 males) to be evacuated to the Division of Arts, Sciences and General Studies, Prince lashed out at critics, stating: “Decisions must be made in the interest of saving lives and protecting people’s safety, and that is exactly what we did.

“That decision is not one that we are going to dream of defending. We did what we had to do at the time, and that was the safest and best decision that could be made,” he expressed.

Prince added: “While we understand and apologize for the inconvenience of having to close the college for one day …while we apologize for that we are sure that the students and the teachers, and the staff out there would understand the need at that time to provide care and protection and comfort for a very special set of people who are in our charge and to whom we must provide that level of care.”

NEMO’s Director was clearly upset that some persons had criticized the fact that the mentally ill patients were evacuated to the college while fire raged at the MCH on Monday night.

This is the second time NEMO had been involved in the evacuation of a hospital.

On this note, Prince stated, “We thought that evacuating the general hospital was difficult. Evacuating the mental hospital had more challenges than you could imagine.”

The challenges Prince spoke of arose because there were no hydrants in the area and the largest fire tender, which was brought to the scene, was unable to enter the gates of the MCH.

Dr. Douglas Slater, Minister of Health and Environment, said the issue of access will have to be taken into consideration as a review is made of public buildings.

The minister disclosed that breaking down the MHC’s gate was considered, but it was very difficult to mobilize heavy equipment at that time of the night.

At about 11:15 p.m. Monday, the police received a report that there was a fire at the MHC, but when they arrived with a fire tender, the officers discovered the fire was very intense and additional fire tenders would be needed.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Bertie Pompey, who was on site to help direct law enforcement officers, said over 300 lengths of hose had to be used to extinguish the fire after a large fire truck from the airport could not pass through the MHC’s gate.

According to Pompey, the fire was brought under control at 2 a.m, but officers remained at the scene until 3:30 a.m.