It was 12.18 am on February 1 when two ambulances carrying 14-year-old Japsimar Singh, 13-year-old Saurav Singla and 10-year-old Ripandeep reached Ludhiana’s CMCH. All three, injured in the blast at Maur Mandi, had started from the blast site at 8.32 pm on January 31, just 5 minutes after the car blast near the truck union office that left six dead and 15 injured. All three, with 80-90% of burns, died within 12 hours of the incident. They did not get any treatment at Maur, which just has two small private nursing homes and a 30-bed government hospital having a lone medical officer working in OPD from 9 am to 3 pm.
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“There is no fire brigade in the town. Residents managed to douse the fire after the blast by throwing mud and buckets of water. Kiran Hospital, a private nursing home managed by a husband-wife couple and situated close to the blast site, could not handle serious patients. We did not waste time and rushed to Bathinda’s Max hospital. We reached there at 8.58 pm. Emergency medical officers, after doing dressing and providing IV fluid, referred us to Ludhiana’s Christian Medical College and Hospital(CMCH) or Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH). All three reached CMCH four hours after the incident. With deep burns, Japsimar was declared brought dead while Ripandeep died in the causality after a few minutes. Saurav was declared dead at 8 am on February 1,” said Satpal Singla, president of Sahara ambulance service at Maur Mandi who had arranged the ambulances.
Three persons had already died on the spot.
Residents say more lives could have been saved had there been adequate health facilities in this small town.
Gyan Chand Insa, uncle of Saurav Singla, said, “So, we did not go the government hospital while private nursing home did not handle burn cases. Serious patients got first aid only after reaching Bathinda, nearly 40- 50 minutes after the incident.”
“Our kids could have been saved. My son was talking to me all the way on telephone. Had the government been committed to providing quality health care in this small town, the situation would have been different,” said Kirtan Singh, father Ripandeep Singh. Kirtan is an army jawan posted in Kapurthala. After he learnt of the blast, he rushed and reached home the next morning but by them, his son had died.
Kiran Nursing Home, located in the market, had admitted four patients with minor injuries. Dr Pawan Garg, who runs the hospital on the ground floor while he himself stays on the first floor, said, “I could not handle 15 patients at a time since I have a small set-up and all were serious patients. So, I admitted only four patients whom I could handle. The responsibility lies on the government’s health care set-up. I did the best I could do.”
All the four patients admitted in this private hospital have been discharged.
Dr Rachpal Singh, senior medical officer at the lone civic hospital at Maur, said, “I am in deep shock after the incident. The patients did not come to our hospital due to lack of staff and facilities. Though we have a staff strength of 23, I am the lone doctor. I am a surgeon. In the absence of adequate staff, I can only handle only OPD patients. It is surprising that while only one doctor has been posted at this hospital, there are 6 staff nurses, 7 class four employees, four pharmacists, four lab technicians, a radiographer. They all cannot function properly in the absence of doctors.” The in-patient wards on the first floor of the hospital are lying locked. “A day after the incident, Bathinda civil surgeon office sent two more medical officers to assist me. They went back after elections,” he said.
When The Indian Express team visited the hospital on February 2 and 3, there were only nursing staff at 3 pm. Tarsem Kumar Halwai, a neighbour of the three kids who died in the blast, said, “On the day of blast, no fire brigade came. We extinguished fire by throwing sand buckets from open plots nearby.”
Ashok Arora, executive officer of Maur Mandi Nagar Council, said, “Maur Mandi comes in B class Nagar Council, so it has no fire brigade. We need to call fire brigade from Rama Mandi, about 30 km from this place. It takes 20-25 minutes for fire brigade to come here. We too feel fire brigade services should be provided to every Nagar Council.”
Police have yet not been able to crack the blast case, though they had lodged an FIR the same night.