A major fire at a premier hospital here on Saturday, the second such incident in two months, gutted the outpatient department and exposed the authorities' lack of preparedness, through their failure to set in place high-grade emergency services in Valley hospitals.
Eyewitnesses said the fire originated from the outpatient department of the Bone and Joints Hospital, the Valley's only such specialty hospital, at around noon on Saturday. Panic gripped the patients when two blasts, apparently resulting from LPG cylinders, shook the hospital. The administration is mute on what caused the fire.
More than 10 fire tenders, drawn from several centers of the city, were rushed to the spot. It took them around 40 minutes to douse the flames. A major portion of the outpatient department was badly damaged in the fire. However, officials claimed that they succeeded in saving medical and other records.
A senior doctor said there were no casualties.
Dozens of patients were shifted to safer places when the fire tenders were tackling the flames.
"The fire extinguishers installed in the hospital were low-grade and insufficient to tackle a fire of this scale," a doctor said, on the condition of anonymity.
"There is a need to install up-to-date fire extinguishers at the hospital to tackle such incidents. It should be a part of patient care and safety," said an attendant, who had to shift a patient wearing cast.
A senior official said a team would look into the cause of the fire. The administration praised the efforts of the fire and emergency services to minimise damage to the hospital.
This incident has put the spotlight back on the authorities' tall claims and chinks in the fire-fighting infrastructure in hospitals.
In first week of November, fire broke out at Srinagar's only maternity facility Lal Ded Hospital.
A senior minister had admitted that there was a need to upgrade infrastructure to reduce chances of fire incidents going out of hand.
"Most of the hospitals in Kashmir Valley lack fire-fighting equipment," state minister for medical education Taj Mohiuddin had admitted then. He had promised that all the new hospitals coming up in the state would be equipped with fire-fighting systems.
DC takes stock
The Srinagar deputy commissioner visited the Bone and Joints Hospital at Barzulla and took stock of loss caused due to fire. Minor damages have been reported in two rooms of the OPD block. The DC directed hospital authorities to clear the debris and make all facilities available to the patients. Hospital authorities assured the DC that the debris would be cleared by Sunday and the OPD would function normally on Monday.