The civic authorities in Ahmedabad, Surat and Rajkot initiated fire safety audit of designated Covid-19 hospitals in the respective cities following a mishap at a similar health facility in Ahmedabad that left eight patients dead on Thursday. A number of hospitals in the three cities were found to be lacking the mandatory no-objection certificate (NOC) from the authorities.
After the fire incident, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) constituted a committee headed by Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Dr Manish Kumar, who is responsible for requisitioning and monitoring of all private hospitals in Ahmedabad city, and chief fire officer M F Dastur to visit and re-inspect all Covid-19 hospitals in the city.
The team conducted audit of nearly 20 Covid-designated hospitals out of 72 of which many were found to be lacking fire safety NOC. “While a few NOCs have expired, some have not applied for renewal, others failed to provide one,” revealed an AMC official. The committee has been asked to complete the fire safety audit of all 72 hospitals by Friday. The hospitals which are lacking the fire safety NOC are being asked to obtain the same immediately.
Sources in the AMC further revealed that out of nearly 2,000 private hospitals and nursing homes in the city, less than 100 have valid fire safety NOC.
Shrey Hospital, the Covid-designated hospital in Navrangpura area, where the incident took place on Thursday did not have a fire safety NOC, said AMC chief fire officer M F Dastur. The hospital director Bharat Mahant, however, refuted this and told this paper, “Since 1998 when the hospital came into existence, we have been regularly applying and abiding by NOC norms. We have never dropped its validity.”
In addition to the C-Form issued by the AMC that registers private hospitals with the civic body, private hospitals are governed by the Gujarat Development Control Regulations (GDCR) and Gujarat Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Regulations. The C-Form is issued only after the hospital submits the fire safety NOC.
When asked about the fire safety NOC, after visiting the incident spot, Rajiv Kumar Gupta, additional chief secretary (ACS), forests and environment department, who is overseeing the Covid management in Ahmedabad, said, “These are some of the minor details which will be checked by the investigation committee constituted by the Chief Minister under ACS (home) Sangeeta Singh and ACS (Urban Development department) Mukesh Puri.”
On the allegations by opposition, AMC in an official statement stated that there was no discrepancy or corruption behind this incident and if this is revealed in the investigations then strict action will be taken against all accused. “All necessary action will be taken against all those responsible for this incident,” it further added.
The Ahmedabad Hospital and Nursing Homes Association (AHNA) too initiated a fire safety audit drive for all its 400 registered members. “We are encouraging all hospitals to undertake fire audits. Agencies for the audit will be hired by AHNA to conduct these audits,” Dr Bharat Gadhavi, AHNA president said.
In Surat, fire brigade officials also formed eight teams and did fire audit of all the 40 Covid-designated hospitals and found that 12 of them lacked fire safety norms. They have been served notices to update or operationalise the fire system.
Surat chief fire officer Basant Pareek said that they conducted the audit to check on various parameters of fire safety.
“In some hospitals, we found that the entire system is dead so we have slapped them with notices. Our teams will again visit these hospitals in coming days and see if they have taken corrective measures or not. On Friday, our teams will conduct checks at 20 community Covid care centres in the city,” Pareek said.
Commenting on the Ahmedabad fire incident, Gujarat BJP president C R Paatil said, “We condemn the incident. Anybody responsible for it should be dealt with strictly. Each and every municipal corporation and municipalities should make sure there is a fire policy in place, recruit sufficient staffers and also have latest equipment to deal with such emergencies.”
In Rajkot, the municipal corporation conducted fire safety audit in the state government-run PDU Hospital and 13 private hospitals and instructed eight of them to obtain statutory NOC from fire department within a week. The RMC also cleared application of the PDU Hospital seeking renewal of fire NOC for its newly-constructed super specialty block.
“As per the instructions of the health department, we sent teams of our fire brigade to conduct safety audit of all the 13 private Covid-19 hospitals and the PDU Hospital. During the audit, it was reported that out of these, five big hospitals had fire NOC while the rest had basic firefighting equipment in place. These private hospitals were started in response to a health emergency and they had installed basic equipment. But we have instructed these eight hospitals to obtain statutory fire NOC within a week by putting in place all arrangements in place to tackle fire emergency,” Rajkot municipal commissioner Udit Agrawal told The Indian Express.
He said that the PDU Hospital’s application seeking renewal of fire NOC for the super specialty block was also disposed of today. “They had applied for renewal of the fire NOC for the super-specialty block and the application was pending with us. We granted their application and have renewed the fire NOC,” Agrawal further said.
Incidentally, the super-specialty block, which was inaugurated a few months ago, has been converted into a dedicated Covid-19 hospital by the state government. It is serving as the nodal treatment facility for Rajkot, Morbi and Surendrangar districts.
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