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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Ahmednagar fire: In 2020, SC directed monthly fire safety audits for all Covid hospitals

The top court had also asked medical facilities to obtain safety clearances from the fire department, if they didn’t have the No Objection Certificates (NOC) issued already.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
November 7, 2021 3:00:14 am
rajkot, Ahmednagar, Fire, Fire accidents, supreme court, supreme court of india, India newsThe charred ICU at the district civil hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, Saturday. (Arul Horizon)

Nearly a year before the deadly Ahmednagar hospital blaze, a similar incident in Rajkot in November 2020 prompted the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognizance of the issue and call for a monthly fire safety audit of Covid-19 hospitals across the country.

“All States/Union Territories should appoint one nodal officer for each covid hospital, if not already appointed, who shall be made responsible for ensuring the compliance of all fire safety measures,” a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Redddy and M R Shah said in its December 18, 2020 order.

The top court had also asked medical facilities to obtain safety clearances from the fire department, if they didn’t have the No Objection Certificates (NOC) issued already.

On November 27, 2020, about half-a-dozen people undergoing treatment for Covid-19 were killed when a fire broke out in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a private hospital in Rajkot, Gujarat.

In its December order, the Supreme Court had directed that each district of all states must carry out a fire audit of each Covid-19 hospital once a month to “inform the deficiency to the management of the hospital and report to the Government for taking follow up action”.

It had also ordered that all “Covid hospital(s) who have not obtained NOC from fire department of the State should be asked to immediately apply for NOC and after carrying necessary inspection, decision shall be taken. Those Covid hospitals who have not renewed their NOC should immediately take steps for renewal…”

During the hearing in the matter, the central government told the court it had issued an advisory to all states on November 28 – a day after the Rajkot incident — to prevent recurrence of such incidents in Covid hospitals and other medical facilities.

The Centre then also asked the state governments for a status of implementation of guidelines – including issuance of NOCs and inspection reports. It further said it had directed states and Union Territories to update their local building fire safety norms based on “Model Bill on maintenance of fire and emergency service, 2019”, circulated by Ministry of Home Affairs on in September 2019.

The Supreme Court, which also went through affidavits filed by state governments over the issue, said some measures have been taken to handle the shortcomings at medical facilities but “more audits and inspections are required to be taken”.

Despite all the directions and advisories, history repeated itself.

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