India hospital fire: Death toll reaches 21
The fire broke out at the ICU and the dialysis unit of the Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital in Odisha. Photograph: (AFP)
The death toll due to a massive fire at a hospital in Eastern Indian state of Odisha reached 21 on Wednesday, with two more critical patients succumbing to injuries.
On Monday, at least 19 people were killed and several injured after a fire broke out at the ICU and the dialysis unit of the Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital, situated in the capital city of Odisha, Bhubaneswar. Within minutes, the smoke engulfed the entire ICU and dialysis unit making evacuation of patients difficult.
As many as 40 others including patients and their visiting relatives were shifted to the nearby private hospitals for treatment.
The Union Health Minister, Government of India, J P Nadda visited the fire-ravaged hospital and the injured patients undergoing treatment.
The minister observed that there were some serious lapses in safety measures taken by the hospital.
“It is really very saddening, shocking and painful also. I have found some lapses in safety issues there which need to be addressed. We see some protocol breach. Inquiry report will come soon. State government should see punitive action taken,” said Nadda, adding, “A fresh advisory will be given to all the states so that such incidents do not take place in future.”
On the same day, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took cognisance of matter and has sought a report from the Odisha government within six weeks.
On Tuesday as many as four officials of the hospital were arrested on charges of criminal negligence, including culpable homicide, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and negligence with regard to fire safety.
The arrested include the hospital’s medical superintendent Pusparaj Samantasinghar, ex-executive engineer Amulya Kumar Sahu, fire safety officer Santosh Das and retired junior engineer Malay Kumar Sahu.
According to sources, the hospital where the fire broke out had been warned for not having proper fire fighting equipments in place in 2013, but the hospital authorities ignored it.
A similar incident in yet another eastern Indian state of West Bengal had occurred in 2011, where a fire in the AMRI hospital claimed as many as 90 lives.
Later, a commission was set up, headed by retired Justice of Calcutta High Court, Tapan Mukherjee and the commission came up with certain recommendations that all the existing and new hospitals across West Bengal had to comply with to get a clearance from the Fire and Emergency Services Department and Health Department.
The recommendations mentioned that each hospital will have a trained fire fighting team to be presided by a retired official of the Fire and Emergency Services Department. The team will have to practise for mock drills from time to time.
Another recommendation mentioned that each hospital will have dedicated Emergency Evacuation Shoot, which will only be used in case of any emergency. The shoot will inflate and allow patients to roll down from the roof.
This apart, the AC ducts will have to have a mechanism, where the air-circulation will stop once it detects black smoke, preventing movement of any kind of smoke entering the other floors.
Besides this, hospitals will not be allowed to store anything in their basement floor or convert it into a godown.
Tragically, those rules and recommendations from the Kolkata hospital fire seemed to be buried under the ashes on Monday, when another fire at Bhubaneshwar’s hospital claimed 21 lives.
(with agency inputs)