Hours after a fire broke out at a Covid-19 hospital in Gujarat’s Rajkot district, the Supreme Court Friday took cognizance of the incident and sought response from the state government. At least five patients died in the fire.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R S Reddy and M R Shah was hearing a matter on treatment of Covid-19 patients and handling of bodies in hospitals. “It is high time that strict measures are taken to implement the policy, guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to contain the surge of coronavirus cases nationwide,” the bench said, reported news agency PTI.
During the hearing, the Centre said it would convene a meeting with authorities across the country and issue directions on fire safety in government hospitals. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the meeting would be held by Saturday.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani ordered an inquiry into the incident, and announced Rs 4 lakh ex gratia to the next of kin of the deceased.
The fire broke out in the Intensive Care Unit of the Uday Shivananda Hospital located in Anand Bungalow Chowk of Rajkot’s Mavdi area at around 12.30 am Friday, and rapidly spread across the unit. “Five patients died and six others were injured. The fire was put out within half-an-hour,” Rajkot City Police Commissioner Manoj Agarwal told The Indian Express.
Last week, the Supreme Court had expressed alarm at the worsening Covid-19 situation in India, particularly in Gujarat and New Delhi, and sought a report detailing the steps taken by the governments to tackle the crisis.
Bhikha Theba, the Chief Fire Officer of Rajkot, said there were 33 patients in the hospital, including 11 patients in the ICU. “Three of them died on the spot, while we managed to rescue the remaining 30 and shift them to Gokul hospital on Vidya Nagar Main Road and Kuvadva in ambulances with the help of doctors. The fire was put out within 30 to 45 minutes,” he said. “It appeared the fire could have been started by electric short-circuit.”
The police commissioner said the cause of the deaths would be known only after post-mortem reports were made available.
Meanwhile, Rajkot Mayor Bina Acharya, who had rushed to the hospital after the fire broke out, said the hospital had due fire clearance and that firefighting equipment were in place.
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