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Ahmednagar hospital fire: Tope clean chit to own dept, hints safety work delayed by PWD

Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that at a meeting held by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, he had sought Rs 217 crore to set up fire-fighting systems in the 550-odd government-run hospitals in the state, and demanded that each hospital have a fire officer and a dedicated fire team.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Ahmednagar |
Updated: November 8, 2021 9:31:24 am
Rajesh Tope, Ahmednagar, Fire accidents, PWD, MAHARASHTRA Health department, hospital fireThe charred ICU in Ahmednagar on Saturday. (Photo: Anil Shah)

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope Sunday denied the charge that no fire safety audit had been conducted at the District Government Hospital in Ahmednagar, where 11 people died in a blaze on Saturday, while hinting that there was delay on the part of the PWD to provide technical sanction for safety works.

“The Health Department carried out the fire safety audit,” Tope said at a press conference, adding, “In June, the department sought technical sanction from the Public Works Department so that we could initiate necessary safety measures at the hospital. The building was constructed by the PWD and they fix the electric system… The Health Department as well as the hospital administration were pursuing the matter with the PWD.”

However, Tope refused to answer when asked pointedly if the PWD should be held responsible for the fire that left 11 Covid patients admitted in the ICU dead.

The minister said four patients had died of burns and six of suffocation, and that they were yet to determine the exact cause for the death of one. While relatives are blaming the hospital administration, Tope said, “The staff and fire brigade acted swiftly to remove the patients from the ICU.”

Action would be initiated in seven days on the basis of the high-level probe, comprising experts and officials, looking into the matter, the minister said. “Responsibility will be fixed. If anyone is found guilty, we will not spare them.” There was no question of shielding anyone, Tope said, “be it from the PWD, electrical or any other department”, or the hospital administration.

Tope also said that at a meeting held by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, he had sought Rs 217 crore to set up fire-fighting systems in the 550-odd government-run hospitals in the state, and demanded that each hospital have a fire officer and a dedicated fire team. “I also suggested setting up CCTVs to monitor the premises.”

Earlier, before Tope’s visit, several top officials, including Additional Chief Secretary Pradeep Vyas, visited the hospital. Asked about their preliminary assessment, Vyas refused to comment. Civil Surgeon Dr Sunil Pokharna did not answer queries regarding a fire safety audit.

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