AROUND THREE months after a fire at Marol’s Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) hospital in the MIDC area claimed 13 lives, the family of a Sakinaka-based senior citizen continues to wait for compensation, despite multiple visits to the ESIC office.
Idna Khatoon Majid (65) had died due to complications arising out of a kidney ailment and brain haemorrhage on January 5, 19 days after the blaze erupted at the 325-bed hospital, where she was admitted. She was among the 13 people who had died as a result of the fire on December 17, 2018, which also injured 176 people.
Idna’s family and treating doctors have claimed that her condition worsened allegedly due to the fire as she inhaled smoke during rescue operations. The family has alleged that officials have been turning them away while asking them to revisit a few weeks later since January. “We were initially told that injured patients will be offered compensation. My mother died in January, a few days after the fire. Officials had then assured us a higher compensation. But the file has not moved since,” said Idna’s son Abdul Majid.
Idna was admitted in the intensive care unit (ICU) on the fourth floor of the ESIC hospital on December 10. On December 14, she underwent a CT scan and a surgery was planned for December 17. On the evening of December 17, fire erupted after sparks from a welding machine fell on a pile of rubber sheets kept near the electrical room of the hospital. Several emergency exits at the hospital, which was undergoing renovation work, were shut. Most patients succumbed to inhalation of smoke from rubber piles that spread through air conditioning ducts.
Why the delay
The ESIC authorities have said that Idna Khatoon Majid died 20 days after the fire and by then, compensation had already been handed over to the other families of the deceased and injured. The fresh application, hence, will take longer, as her name would have to be transferred from the list of the injured to the deceased. The hospital’s glass facade has always been a death trap with minor fires frequently reported by staff. Two days after the blaze, a small fire had again erupted in the hospital. The incident has further slowed the hospital’s long due renovation.
The hospital staff and Idna’s family shifted her from the fourth floor to an ambulance but it had no ambubag to facilitate breathing. Abdul claimed that she suffered from breathlessness during the rescue operation. Idna was first admitted in Seven Hills hospital’s ICU from where she was transferred to Riddhi Vinayak hospital at Kandivali on January 4. According to a medical official at Riddhi Vinayak, she required ventilator support. Her medical reports show that her blood pressure was low, her breathing was irregular and she remained in a critical condition. She died a day later.
“The smoke may have impacted her breathing because she was a senior citizen and already weak,” an official from the hospital said. Abdul, who works at the operation section of online portal Flipkart, gets a monthly salary of Rs 14,000. He has five mouths to feed in his slum dwelling. “In MIDC, the superintendent asked me to submit all documents. They already have all the documents. But they are making me run from one official to another,” Abdul said.
Nutan Kamble, the ESIC official attached with Riddhi Vinayak hospital, said she has already submitted all documents related to Idna’s treatment to the headquarters. “Such procedures take time,” she said. The family also waits for compensation of Rs 4 lakh promised by the collector’s office.
Dr BB Gupta, the superintendent of ESIC hospital in Marol, said the families of 12 deceased patients have been paid compensation of Rs 10 lakh each. In addition, 27 patients, who were seriously injured, have been offered Rs 2 lakh each as compensation and 92 other victims with minor injuries have been given Rs 1 lakh compensation each.
At least four employees attached with the hospital have been arrested. They are assistant general managers Bhimrao Kamble and Mohammed Ahmed and two employees — Nitin Kamble and Nilesh Mehta — of Supreme Infrastructure Private Limited, the contractor which was executing the renovation work at the hospital.
The state government had ordered an inquiry and immediate financial assistance to families of those deceased and injured. While the first phase of providing compensation was undertaken on December 24, a week after the fire, the government has been slow in taking up cases thereafter.