THE BMC has renewed the licences of several hospitals, nursing homes and maternity homes despite them not completing final compliances with fire safety norms. Instead, it has taken an undertaking from the owners of such establishments regarding following fire safety norms. This measure was undertaken as per the new norms for ease of doing business.
Kurla-based activist Shakeel Shaikh, who had in October sought information under the Right to Information Act on unauthorised hospitals and nursing homes, said that some copies of hospital licences included a remark saying the renewal of registration had been granted under the BNHRA (Bombay Nursing Homes Registration Act) “with the presumption of minimum conditions incorporated in Maharashtra Fire Prevention & Life Safety Act are complied with, subject to submitting registered compliance of CFO (chief fire officer) requirements.”
In other words, the licences had been renewed without any check on whether fire safety compliances were complete.
“The copies of these renewed licences are from 2017. Licences, NOC’s and approvals were granted under ease of doing business. Many sectors were allowed to give self-certification of fire safety measures. This happened in Mojo’s Bistro and 1 Above restaurant too, where they were given some NOCs and permissions under the ease of doing business norms. This is nothing but authorities playing with the lives of patients,” Shaikh told The Indian Express.
A senior official said before 2011, hospitals and nursing homes did not require fire brigade’s no-objection certificate for operating. Only after the 2011 tragedy in a Kolkata hospital that killed more than 90 people, the state government issued a circular, making the fire brigade’s NOC compulsory for renewal or new registration of hospitals and nursing homes.
He added, “Later, after ease of doing business circular was issued to help eateries and other commercial establishments do business, we told some establishments to submit affidavits of self-certification of fire safety measures. The role of the fire brigade was minimised. This once again changed after the Kamala Mill fire, and all establishments have now been asked to submit a compliance report before they are granted a fire NOC.”
Shaikh also raised questions over government hospitals’ safety measures — many of these are exempt from registration under the Bombay Nursing Act. This loophole allows government hospitals or nursing homes to run without adequate safety measures, he added.
A senior official from the BMC health department said, “All government hospitals and nursing homes are exempted from registration under BNHRA. So, there is no question of the civic body issuing licence or renewing their registration.”