Updated: November 9, 2021 2:10:39 pm
APPOINT A professional fire officer in each facility, set up in-house fire response teams, nominate a fire warden for each floor and every shift.
These were three key recommendations among 15 that were put together by an audit committee of the Maharashtra government soon after a fire at the district hospital in Bhandara claimed the lives of ten newborn babies in January.
Since then, five major fires have been reported in the state’s hospitals with 45 more deaths but the government is yet to implement those recommendations.
Officials point out that a trained in-house response team could have reduced the number of casualties in Saturday morning’s fire that killed 11 Covid patients at the district hospital in Ahmednagar.
According to Shankar Misal, the civic fire brigade chief in Ahmednagar, there were six fire extinguishers in the hospital’s ICU where the fire started. And yet, only one ward boy was able to operate a fire extinguisher, which was deemed too little, too late.
“The hospital staff weren’t trained to handle the fire extinguishers. If they had proper training or an in-hospital fire response team, they would have been able to douse the fire before it spread further, limiting the fatality. Out of six functional fire extinguishers, only one was used,” Misal said.
Following the fire in Bhandara, an eight-member committee had submitted 15 fire-safety recommendations to be implemented in all major government-run hospitals. The panel included former director of Maharashtra Fire Service P S Rahangdale, Divisional Commissioner (Nagpur) Dr Sanjeev Kumar and Health Service Director Dr Sadhana Tayade, among others.
Among the major recommendations, the committee suggested the setting up of “in-house fire response teams” in each hospital. It also recommended a fire warden for each floor, and every shift, a member of the committee told The Indian Express.
“The hospital staff are the first responders in case of fire, and their awareness in fire and life safety is very important…there is a need to designate some of the existing staff in the hospitals as ‘Fire Wardens’,” the committee member said.
In a press conference Sunday, State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said every hospital should have a ‘Fire Officer’ and a dedicated response team. But the committee had already made such a recommendation in January.
“The creation of new posts for Fire Officers is in the pipeline. The Health Department will be responsible for filling up the posts,” said Santosh Warick, Director, Health Department.
The committee had also recommended the allocation of funds under a separate budget head in all major health facilities for fire-safety measures. “Major hospitals should have their own budget, which will stop wastage of time as departments keep passing the buck,” said an official, who was part of the team that investigated the fire in Bhandara.
A Health officer in Ahmednagar told The Indian Express that after the fire audit in January, the hospital submitted an estimate of Rs 2.5 crore to the Public Works Department for the installation of a fire safety system. “The estimate got approved only in the last week of October,” the officer said.
The other major recommendations include: link CCTV networks in hospitals with real-time monitoring control centres at the state, division and district levels; prepare SOPs for planning and construction of hospital buildings and maintenance; conduct electrical audit of buildings; set up advanced fire training centres; ensure maintenance of fire-safety equipment.
When contacted with queries on why the committee’s recommendations were not implemented, Dr Pradeep Vyas, Additional Chief Secretary (Health) declined comment.
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