Five infants,including two girls,were burnt alive while five others were critically injured in an accidental fire that broke out due to an electric short circuit and alleged hospital negligence at the neonatalogy unit of Government Rajindra Hospital here on Saturday morning.
The 10 new-born babies were kept in incubators with no one watching over them as the department had not allowed setting up of a nursing station inside the ward.
Five infants,one of whom is in a serious condition,were rescued by relatives attending to other patients,as the hospital was ill-equipped to deal with such a crisis situation. The seriously injured infant was admitted at the PGI,Chandigarh.
District officials said the cause of the fire could be that no less than seven tube connections and some heaters were drawn from the same socket. It seems that the overloaded electricity point could have led to the short circuit, they said.
DSP Manjit Brar,who reached the spot shortly after the incident,said three of the dead infants were only five days old while the other two were 10 days old. We have shifted one baby to Chandigarh,while others are being taken care of in another ward of the hospital, he said.
Eyewitnesses said the fire broke out in the early hours of Saturday and within minutes reduced the entire incubator and phototherapy unit into ashes. The fire broke out at 3.40 am. the fire brigade reached at 4.20 am. Relatives of other patients were seen helping in rescuing the babies until then, they said.
I saw flames erupting from the department and I took my blanket and carried three children in the first go and one other person helped me. He was also a relative of a patient here, said Surjit Singh from village Nehru Khurd.
Father of a deceased baby,Lakhvinder Singh said he was shocked to see that no one from the nursing staff was present inside the ward. My wife was in another ward and now I cannot even recognise my daughter, he said,as tears rolled down his cheeks.
Relative of another deceased infant said he was at home when the incident took place. I got a call at 4 am and when I reached the hospital,I had already lost my nephew, Ram Kumar said.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has distributed an ex-gratia grant of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of the deceased. The police have registered a case under Section 174 of the CrPc. District administration will bear the cost of treatment of the injured children. Dr Surinder Singh of the hospital said that it was an accident and nothing more should be read into it.
The CM has suspended the principal of Government Rajindra Medical College and Hospital,Jaswinder Pal Kaur.