Four patients admitted in the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Mumbra, near Mumbai, were killed after a major fire broke out early on Wednesday.
A short-circuit in the meter box of the hospital — Prime Criticare, a non Covid facility — is suspected to have sparked the fire, according to preliminary inquiry.
According to Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) officials, around 20 patients were admitted at the time of the mishap.
Maharashtra has seen multiple critical incidents in hospitals in the last one month. Last week, 14 Covid-19 patients in the ICU of a private hospital in Virar (West) near Mumbai died, at least 11 of them while asleep, after a faulty air-conditioning unit triggered a small blast and sparked a major blaze that gutted the entire ICU ward.
On April 21, 24 patients died at a hospital run by the municipal corporation in Nashik after oxygen supply was disrupted due to a leak in the main storage tank.
At the Mumbra hospital, the authorities said a ward boy, Sadiq Engineer, first spotted fire in a cabin near the meter room. He tried to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher, but failed, and raised alarm.
Deputy Municipal Commissioner Manish Joshi (TMC) said, “After the fire was reported, local residents and fire officials rescued 16 patients. Four others admitted in the ICU ward succumbed; two of them expired while being shifted (out).”
With the blaze spreading fast across the hospital, local residents broke open the grille and glass windows to rescue patients.
Sayad Rehan, 50, who worked in an insurance company, was admitted in the ICU on the ground floor on April 22 after he was diagnosed with pneumonia. As smoke took over the ward, he said, “we tried opening the main doors to escape, but they got locked since the fire and smoke was all over the room”.
“I had given up on life when, suddenly, residents broke open the window and pulled me out,” he said.
All patients rescued were rushed to either Bilal Hospital, on the lane opposite, or Kalsekar Hospital at Dawle village in Mumbra.
The deceased have been identified as Harish Sonawane (57), Nawab Majid Shaikh (47), Halima Salmani (70), and Yasmeen Zafar Sayyed (46).
“Sonawane had tested positive for Covid 19 on Tuesday and he passed away while he was being shifted to a Covid care center nearby,” an official from TMC said. “Salmani, who had turned critical two hours before the incident, (also) died during shifting.”
Joshi said that a high-level inquiry has been ordered by the TMC to ascertain the cause of fire and negligence on part of the hospital authorities.
Chief fire officer Girish Zalke said the hospital had recently got its fire audit done. Another fire officer said that two months ago they had served that notice to install proper fire compliance.
Sayed Aleyaba, whose father-in-law was admitted in the general ward of the hospital and was taken out safely, said, “We are following Ramzan, so I went to get food for Sehri around 3am. When I returned, I saw there was panic all across — people were rushing outside and the fire was spreading. I went up to get my father-in-law when the nurse and doctors of the hospital were with him and were taking him out of the hospital.”
Aleyaba’s father-in-law was admitted on April 19 and had fallen unconscious after the fire broke out.
Following the blaze, state Urban Development and Public Works Minister Eknath Shinde, Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, who is also MLA of Mumbra-Kalwa constituency, and BJP leader Kirit Somaiya visited the spot on Wednesday.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced Rs 5 lakh for the family of the deceased and Rs 1 lakh for each person injured in the fire incident.
TMC deputy municipal commissioner Joshi said that the civic body has announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for the families of the deceased.