A fire broke out in the pharmacy of the state-run Calcutta Medical College and Hospital Wednesday morning, leading to the evacuation of more than 250 patients. While police said no casualty was reported, the family of a patient alleged that he died as a direct result of the evacuation process. Superintendent of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital Dr Asish Kumar Basu denied the allegation, saying, “No casualty has been reported due to fire or smoke. A family did allege that a patient had died while being shifted from one ward to another, but there is no truth to it. He died due to medical reasons.”
Police sources said the fire started on the ground floor of the MCH building at around 8 am. Ten fire tenders rushed to the spot, as did senior fire, police and disaster management officials.
“The smoke was seen by relatives of patients who were buying medicine. While several patients were evacuated in time, a few of the patients, being panic-stricken, came out of the ward on their own,” said an official.
Sources said ICU patients were moved out in bedsheets, due to a lack of stretchers, and many were kept out in the open till late in the evening. Oxygen cylinders kept in a store room close to the pharmacy were shifted to another department. Sources also said medicines worth Rs 5 crore, stored in the pharmacy, were destroyed. Among those shifted out was 75-year-old Shahidul Islam Mullick. His family has claimed that his condition deteriorated during the evacuation.
“We saw the smoke and rushed towards my father… We were shifting him to the emergency ward but his condition deteriorated during the evacuation. He was given oxygen at the emergency ward. He died at 10.05 am. He died due to the incident,” Shahidul’s son Moidul, a resident of Khanakul in Hooghly. Shahidul was admitted at the hospital on September 25 with hyperglycaemia and acute respiratory problems. He was placed in the first floor of the MCH building.
Fire Minister Sovan Chatterjee, who reached the spot, said, “The patient was evacuated and a few patients were also shifted to another hospital for better treatment. The fire was confined to the ground floor.”
Minister of State, Health and Family Welfare Chandrima Bhattacharya said, “Three wards — cardiology, general medicine and haematology — could have been affected and hence rapid evacuation was undertaken.”
As many as 57 patients who were undergoing treatment in the cardiology ward were evacuated. “They were shifted to the emergency ward. Some patients have undergone surgeries like angioplasty, pacemaker, implantations and so on,” said a senior doctor.
“I was sleeping when my brother came running and carried me on his back and brought me down through the other side of the building. When we were coming down, we noticed thick smoke. It is not only fire but even smoke that has been a cause of death in so many fire incidents. I want my family to shift me to another hospital even after the fire is controlled. I am a heart patient and can’t take the risk,” said Kali Prasad Rai (48), a driver.
“The fire broke out in the medicine shop, which had inflammable items. Fire officials needed time to control the blaze,” said local TMC MLA Nayna Bandopadhyay. The reason behind the fire is yet to be ascertained. Sources said hospital authorities have initiated a probe into the matter. Director General (fire services) Jagmohan also assured a thorough investigation.
No infrastructure, no planning: Oppn
Opposition leaders hit out at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the incident, with Congress Rajya Sabha member Pradeep Bhattacharya saying, “ There is no infrastructure in such a super speciality hospital. The government has no planning. No one knows what needs to be done in emergencies. Why was the shifting of patients not done properly? There must be a high-level inquiry”.
CPM Politburo member and state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra also lashed out at the state government, saying, “ From AMRI to Bagri, we have seen all. The government has no concern.”