The fire in the intensive care unit of (ICU) of a private hospital in Rajkot that killed five Covid-19 patients and injured six others on Friday could have been caused by an overheated humidifier of a ventilator, said AK Rakesh, additional chief secretary (ACS) of Panchayat, Rural Housing and Rural Development department, who was sent from Gandhinagar to investigate the matter.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident by Justice (retired) KA Puj of the Gujarat High Court.
Talking to media persons in Rajkot on Saturday, Rakesh said, “Prima facie it appears that the fire started from some equipment… A number of equipment are used for treating Covid patients. One of them is humidifier. In this humidifier, if the temperature goes up and if there is oxygen supply, the gas becomes combustible… So, it is possible that the fire started from there.”
The ACS is conducting an inquiry into the incident that happened in the ICU of Uday Shivanand Covid Hospital in Mavdi area of the city. The fire, which broke out around 12.30 am on Friday, also left six patients who were undergoing treatment in the ICU and a few members of the hospital staff injured before firefighters doused the flames and rescued 28 patients.
The ACS added that the possibility of the fire having been caused by an electric short-circuit was also not ruled out. “That is also a possibility. The exact cause would be known once we get reports from FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) and electrical inspector… Prima facie, the electric wiring was of required capacity,” Rakesh said.
Hours after the fire was doused on Friday, the electrical inspector inspected the hospital run by Gokul Life Care Private Limited, a private entity that runs a chain of hospitals under brand name Gokul. A team of forensic experts also inspected the facility in the afternoon.
Dr Tejas Karamta of Uday Covid Hospital had compared the intensity with which the fire spread in the ICU to a fire caused by a blast. However, Rakesh said that there was no blast in the ICU. “According to primary details, there was no blast. At least CCTV footage doesn’t confirm any blast,” he said.
Uday hospital doctors said that after it started, the fire engulfed the entire ICU in no time, affecting evacuation of patients. Rakesh had said on Friday that the hospital staff attempted to switch on the firefighting system in the hospital but were not successful.
Meanwhile, an official release from the government stated that Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has decided to assign to Justice (retired) KA Puj of the Gujarat High Court for a judicial inquiry into the fire incident. “Justice Puj Commission was also assigned inquiry into the fire at Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad in the recent past,” it stated.
Joint teams of Rajkot fire brigade as well as officials from the health and electrification departments of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation on Saturday conducted inspection in more than 20 Covid hospitals to check their preparedness to respond to disasters.
The ACS said that he would wind up the inquiry within two-three days and submit the report to the state government. He held a meeting with Rajkot collector Remya Mohan, officer on special duty to Rajkot Rahul Gupta, Rajkot municipal commissioner Udit Agrawal, Rajkot city police commissioner Manoj Agarwal and other top officers on Friday morning.
“We discussed precautions to be taken to prevent fire incidents in Covid hospitals where oxygen levels remain high… We shall make certain recommendations such as installing most modern equipment and frequent training of staff. Instead of training people every three months, they can be given fires safety training every fortnight or every month so that they would be well prepared,” said Rakesh.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines