A day after a fire broke out in an ICU ward on the first floor of the civic-run SSG hospital in Vadodara, a CCTV footage that emerged from its ICU-1 showed the calm with which three doctors attended to patients and doused a ball of fire before it engulfed all things around. The video, which is two minutes and 45 seconds long, showed three doctors dressed in PPE kits, working around the ventilator and changing its socket points before it suddenly exploded.
The video further showed that two female doctors – in a composed manner – evacuated a patient who was on the support of the same ventilator that had exploded. The patient, visibly unable to stand on his own, took slow steps with help of the doctors, away from what turned into a formidable fire.
Within seconds, the machine exploded and another doctor rushed to an elderly lady on the next bed, removed the attached equipment and helped her walk out. Two other younger patients seen in the video watched for a while even as electric fumes filled the room and clouded their vision. Meanwhile, a surgeon managed to douse the flames with the help of an extinguisher, averting a major catastrophe and casualties, as per SSG Superintendent Dr Ranjan Aiyer. The patients were safely wheeled out via the stairs with the help of staff, as well as relatives of the patients who had rushed in to help, even as the electricity connection snapped on the floor.
It is not yet clear how the ventilator, a new one installed in the ICU of the designated Covid hospital, went up in flames,.Vadodara Collector Shalini Agarwal formed a committee to probe into the incident. The committee is led by Deputy Municipal Commissioner SK Patel. The Vadodara Fire and Emergency Services (VFES) department primarily concluded that a massive tragedy – similar to the Shrey Hospital fire in Ahmedabad on August 5 – was averted due to the quick action taken by the staff of the ICU, including the evacuation of patients.
The probe committee comprises three other members besides Patel, including Dr Varsha Godbole, dean of Gotri medical college run by the Gujarat Medical Research and Education Society (GMERS); Assistant Professor of GMERS Gotri and Anaesthetist Dr Nita Bose and Superintendent Engineer of Madhya Gujarat Vij Corporation Ltd. (MGVCL), BJ Desai. The team first visited the ICU ward, from where the patients were evacuated even as two staff members in the ICU had doused the flames.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Patel said that “preliminary inquiry has suggested that the ventilator was a Dhaman-1”, which has been mired in controversy since the Gujarat government decided to install the units in Covid-19 ICUs across the state.
“We have been told it is Dhaman-1, but there is no conclusion on that yet. I have sought a report from the doctor of the ICU and it will be clear by Thursday. It is a fact that a major tragedy was averted due to the fire drill and training that the SSG hospital staff had taken just a couple of days before this fire. They were not only taught to handle a sudden blaze, but also to evacuate patients. They have put their skills to use and ensured that it did not end in a tragedy,” Patel said.
The committee has now sought reports from a Project Implementation Unit (PIU) engineer, a biomedical engineer as well as a doctor of the ICU, to be submitted by Thursday, detailing their findings of the incident. The PIU engineer has conducted a detailed examination of the wiring and electrical fixtures of the ward.
Staff members of the hospital told this newspaper that the ventilator had begun flickering at first, which is when two staff members changed the socket connection of the ventilator and tried to restart it. “Almost in the same instant, the ventilator burst, emitting smoke and within seconds there was an explosion. The patient was immediately evacuated, even before the ventilator caught fire. The fire quickly spread on to the bed and other furnishings around, before it was doused,” a staffer said.
Aiyar told this newspaper that ICU-1 had 15 patients of the 39 occupants in the three ICU units located on the floor. “We are yet to overcome the fright that the incident has caused. The doctors did a good job because they had just received training from the VFES to handle fires. We are now awaiting the report of the committee and are cooperating with them,” Aiyar said.
The probe committee will submit its report to Agarwal.
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