Eighty seven year-old retired Hospital Attendant at the Savanna-La-Mar Public General Hospital, Inez Collins-Petgrave, who lives in the Westmoreland town, is well known for her selfless, loving and caring attitude as someone who will consistently go out of her way to give good advice and render assistance to persons around her.
Some 53 years ago, she performed a heroic deed that resulted in the successful rescue of a number of patients of the hospital from a raging inferno that destroyed a section of the facility, leaving damage estimated at millions of dollars.
That valiant and heroic deed did not go unnoticed by her superiors, co-workers and citizens of the town and so, on National Heroes’ Day (October 18), Mrs.Collins-Petgrave was named among ten ‘local heroes’ showered with accolades and awards by the Westmoreland Heritage Committee.
She was given a special award for bravery and commitment to duty as a Ward Maid, after raising the alarm on a section of the hospital, and assisting in rescuing a large number of helpless patients and bringing them to safety.
Westmoreland’s local Heroine, Inez Collins-Petgrave,
(seated second left) pose with fellow awardees during the National Heroes’
Day Civic Ceremony recently at Norman Square in Savanna-La-Mar,
On a Tuesday afternoon in March, 1957, the old Savanna-La-Mar Public General Hospital, which was located at the current site of the Savanna-La-Mar Infirmary, caught fire. The incident sent shockwaves through the town and across the parish, as the entire hospital population was caught in a massive firefight.
Mrs. Collins-Petgrave, who was living at nearby Dunbar’s River, was off-duty and standing at the back of her house, when she heard a massive explosion, followed by spurts of fire. The hospital attendant went into action, immediately, raising an alarm, running towards the hospital shouting, at the top of her voice, ‘Fire, fire, hospital on fire!’
The alarm attracted the attention of management, staff and persons on the streets nearby, who all set to work rescuing patients from the burning inferno. Mrs. Collins-Petgrave, though almost out of breath, joined in the rescue operations.
As a result of her noble and gallant act, there was no loss of life nor serious injury to any of the patients who were later temporarily housed at the Manning’s High School, a short distance away.
The ‘local heroine’ was born in the district of Cove, Lambs River, Westmoreland on November 11, 1927, to Edna Lewis-Holt and Herbert Collins. She was the eldest of 11 children and developed an early habit of caring for her siblings, which hindered her from attending school during her childhood.
“As a young child, I somehow missed out on the luxury of attending school. I met a big humbug because I was a very sickly child, suffering from a lame foot and asthma. My mother went away and left us early and, after a while, I was sent to live with my great grandmother,” she explained.
“I was registered to attend a school, but never started attending, as I was given lots of work in the home. I have never sat in a school to hear my name called as a normal child, but I still thank God, because he has truly provided for me over these many years,” Mrs. Petgrave told JIS News.
She pointed out that, as a young woman, she did almost anything in order to earn a living. She got a job at the Savanna-La-Mar Public General Hospital as a Ward Maid, hand washing clothes and cleaning the floor with coconut brush.
“I really did not want to box around the town. I wanted to be an independent person and so I was glad for this job at the hospital. I worked hard and, at the same time, cared for my great grandmother as well as my grandmother, until they both died. People in the town loved and respected me, because of the quality work that I could do as a domestic helper,” she told JIS News.
She commenced working at the Savanna-La-Mar Public General Hospital in 1955, and retired in 1987, after over 30 years of dedicated service to the institution.
She told JIS News that she was very appreciative of the award given to her on National Heroes’ Day by the parish, and thanked all those who had seen it fit to plan the event for her and others.