June 11, 1999

Fire brings out best in VUMC personnel, other area hospitals

Fire brings out best in VUMC personnel, other area hospitals


Nine metro fire trucks and dozens of firefighters responded to Monday's fire in the hospital. (photo by Paul Hightower)

A fire in an electrical vault in the hospital caused some tense moments Monday morning.

The fire, which broke out at approximately 8:30 a.m., was contained to an electrical distribution vault located on the second floor of the hospital.

Even so, it caused power disruptions and pumped thick smoke into several areas of the hospital, including the operating room area, Emergency Department, Cardiac Catheter Laboratory, and family waiting areas on the first and second floors.

Numerous patients were moved and dozens of staff members were evacuated to escape the smoke and fumes. By 10:30 the fire was controlled and the smoke had been cleared from much of the building, thanks to the Metro Nashville Fire Department and VUMC's own Department of Plant Operations.

"This is a great example of how VUMC personnel are at their very best during a crisis," said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs. "Due to everyone's quick action there were no adverse patient outcomes as a result of the fire,"

When the fire was spotted the operating rooms had 19 cases under way. In 12 minutes staff had moved every case out and over to Medical Center East, including an open heart surgery and a liver resection.

"The move from the operating suites to Medical Center East illustrates how well trained and talented our staff is," said Jacobson.

Meanwhile, patients were transferred from the main Emergency Department to the Pediatric Emergency Department to escape the smoke, an effort that also went smoothly. The main ED was kept closed the rest of the day Monday as a precautionary measure.

"This would not have worked out so well without the assistance of other hospitals in the area who immediately offered to help out as much as they could," said Dr. Corey M. Slovis, professor and chair of Emergency Medicine.

Upon hearing of the fire at VUH, St. Thomas, Metropolitan General, Centennial and other hospitals in the area immediately offered beds, nursing support, and even operating rooms to patients who may have needed them.

"Although we did not need to send patients who were already here to other hospitals, their help was very comforting and highlight the cooperative attitude seen between Nashville's many fine health care facilities," said Jacobson.

As of press time, some areas of the hospital still held the smell of smoke. A continuing clean-up effort is expected to cleanse most of the hospital within the next few days. Some planned power interruptions may also be possible as service crews work on the electrical system.