EIGHT patients of Covid-19 admitted in ICU were killed in Ahmedabad early on Thursday morning after a private hospital in Navrangpura area of the city caught fire. There were 49 patients in the 50-bed Shrey Hospital at the time, eight of them in the ICU, located on the fourth floor, which was completely charred.
The 22-year-old hospital, designated a coronavirus facility on May 16, had no fire clearance, Ahmedabad Fire and Emergency Services Chief Fire Officer M F Dastur said. Hospitals have to renew their fire no objection certificates (NOC) every year. A hospital director, Bharat Mahant, and an unidentified ward boy have been detained for interrogation. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has ordered an inquiry headed
by Additional Chief Secretaries Sangeeta Singh and Mukesh Puri, and sought a report within three days. A paramedic attached to the hospital who tried dousing the flames was injured. Mahant claimed there were 35 staff members in the hospital at the time. The eight killed, between the ages of 42 and 82, included three women, and a father and son. Read in Bengali
The fire, reported around 3.30 am on Thursday, is suspected to have started due to a short-circuit in the ICU, spreading from there to the third floor. The eight died of suffocation before the firemen could make it to the fourth floor, that was the topmost.
DCP, Zone 1, Ahmedabad City, Ravindra Patel said they were waiting for forensic reports to determine if there was any negligence. “Then an FIR will be filed.” Sources said there was no hospital staff in the ward when the fire started.
A fireman said the hospital had one entry and exit point and narrow stairs for higher floors. The hospital is located in a lane in Navrangpura area with residential buildings around. Following the incident, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) ordered a fire safety audit of the 72 Covid hospitals in the city. Twenty were inspected on Thursday, with many found lacking NOC.
Additional Chief Secretary Rajiv Kumar Gupta, Officer on Special Duty with the AMC for Covid-19, said the hospital paramedics tried to douse the fire but failed. Refusing to talk about the directors or owners of the hospital — names of the three other directors apart from Mahant have not been disclosed — Gupta said more than 300 people had been treated at Shrey since it was named a Covid facility.
The AMC designates a hospital a Covid facility after checks which include the number of beds in its wards and ICU, including for the coronavirus, the number of ventilators, and whether a hospital is registered with it.
Mahant said it was not true that Shrey didn’t have a fire clearance. “We have all the documents in place. We have been getting the licence renewed since 1998. We have treated 310 patients and not received any complaint,” he told The Indian Express. He also denied the charge that the staff deserted the patients when the fire started. “One of our staff suffered burn injuries trying to douse the fire. All the staff were present till the fire tenders arrived.” According to Mahant, “They could have only rescued the patients once the fire officials allowed them to.”
The hospital has 12 medical officers and around 40 paramedic and clerical staff on its rolls. The son of a former Gujarat Congress president, Mahant had joined the BJP last year. Party spokesperson Bharat Pandya said he was not aware of this, while adding that there should be no politics over the incident. “Whoever is responsible will be punished.”
Navnit R Shah (80) and his son Narendra N Shah (61), who died in the incident, were from Dholka in Ahmedabad district. Narendra, who ran a cloth business, was admitted to Shrey nearly two weeks back. His father was hospitalised 10 days ago. Navnit’s brother-in-law Arvind Shah said they got a call from the hospital only around 7.10 am. ” When we reached there, they showed us the list of the dead.”
The other victims were Arif Mansuri (42), Lilavatiben Shah (72), Arvindbhai Bhavsar (78), Jyotiben Sindhi (55), Manubhai Rami (82) and Ayeshaben Tirmizi (51). They had been in the hospital three days to two weeks.
Rajendrakumar Adesara, 58, and his mother Hasuben, 82, were among the 41 patients rescued. He said he woke up to screams. “I saw a body engulfed in fire running out of the ICU. I woke my mother up and we rushed down. In the chaos, she fell, but I got hold of her,” he said, adding that he had lost all his belongings, including his phone, in the fire.
Adesara’s brother Nitinkumar said the hospital didn’t inform them, and they first got an alert from someone who told them to watch the news. “We panicked as we could not contact the two,” Nitinkumar said, adding that he kept trying all the phone numbers he could get before finally managing to talk to Adesara.
Many relatives had the same complaint, of not being informed, and rushing to the spot as news broke in the morning hours.
Additional Chief Fire Officer Rajesh Bhatt said 35 firefighters with a hydraulic platform reached the spot within 10-12 minutes of receiving a call at 3.30 am. “We reached the fourth floor but it was engulfed in smoke and we had difficulty seeing even three-four feet away. All the eight dead seemed to have first fallen unconscious due to suffocation and then suffered heat and burn injuries.”
A fireman, who refused to be identified, said they initially donned face shields, masks and rubber gloves to ward off any infection, but given the heat and smoke, eventually discarded them.
The evacuated patients were taken to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Hospital run by the AMC. The bodies have been sent for post-mortem.
The CM has declared compensation for the deceased and the injured.
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