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Five newborns charred to death in Patiala hospital

Five infants,including 2 girls,were burnt alive while five others were critically injured in a fire that broke out due to an electric short circuit at the Neonatalogy Unit of the Government Rajindra Hospital on Saturday morning.

Written by Aman Sood | Patiala | Published: February 1, 2009 12:31 am

Fire broke out due to short circuit in incubator :Infants were alone in the ward

Five infants,including 2 girls,were burnt alive while five others were critically injured in a fire that broke out due to an electric short circuit at the Neonatalogy Unit of the Government Rajindra Hospital on Saturday morning.

The 10 newborn babies,who were kept in incubators,were alone with no one watching over them as the department had not allowed setting up of a nursing station inside the ward.

Five infants,one of whom is in serious condition with burn injuries, were rescued by some attendants of other patients as the hospital was ‘ill-equipped’ to fight such a situation. The seriously injured infant has been admitted in the PGI,Chandigarh.

District officials stated that the cause of the fire could be that no less than seven tube connections and some heaters were drawn from the same socket. “It seems that the overloaded electricity point could have led to the short circuit,” they said.

DSP Manjit Brar,who reached the spot shortly after the incident,said that three of the dead were only five days old while the other two were 10 days old. “We have shifted one critically injured child to Chandigarh while others are being taken care of in the other ward of the hospital,” he said.  

Eyewitnesses said the fire broke out in the early hours of Saturday and within minutes reduced the entire incubator and phototherapy unit into ashes.  “The fire broke out around 3.40 am but the relatives of some patients carried out the rescue operation before the fire brigade reached the hospital around 4.20 am,” they said.

“As soon as I saw flames erupting from the department,I took my blanket and carried three children in the first go. An attendant of a patient admitted in the hospital also helped me,” said Surjit Singh from Nehru Khurd village. “We took out two more babies but could not save the other five as by then the flames had charred them,” he added. Father of a deceased girl,Lakhvinder Singh said that he was shocked to see that no one from the nursing staff was present inside the ward. “My wife was in another ward and now I cannot even recognise my daughter,” he said,as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Another relative of a deceased boy told Newsline that he was home and had left it to the hospital authorities to take care of his nephew. “I got a call around 4 am. When I reached the hospital,it was all finished and I had lost my nephew,” Ram Kumar said.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal later distributed an ex-gratia grant of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of the deceased. The police have registered a case under Section 174 of the CrPc. The district administration would bear the cost of treatment of the injured children.  

Government Rajindra Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Surinder Singh said that it was an accident and nothing more should be read out of it.

15-day-old battles for life at PGI
Chandigarh
: With 40 per cent burns,a 15-day-old premature boy from Patiala is struggling for survival at the Advanced Paediatric Centre at the PGI where he was brought this morning from Patiala. In the evening,the infant was shifted from the Paedictric Emergency ward to the Neonatal ICU as his condition deteriorated. Born to Lakhwinder Singh and Sumerjeet Kaur,the baby is the couple’s first child and was two-month premature. He is among the five babies who were fortunate enough to escape the inferno at the Rajindra Hospital in Patiala. While the newborn’s parents were busy completing formalities at the Patiala hospital,his grandmother Rajinder Kaur,who is attending to him at the PGI,said: “We got to know about the fire around 4 am. After the doctors referred the child to PGI,I believe there is some ray of hope.”

Judicial probe ordered
The chief minister has suspended Government Rajindra Medical College and Hospital Principal Jaswinder Pal Kaur for negligence on duty. According to an official communiqué,the Punjab government has ordered a judicial probe into the incident under the supervision of former High Court judge KC Gupta.

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