KEM Hospital in Parel and VN Desai Hospital in Santacruz have started replacing expired fire extinguishers and have planned regular fire drills after a HT report showed how unprepared some city hospitals are for a major fire. On February 24, HT reported about the unpreparedness of public hospitals to handle a fire emergency (Two civic hospitals fire traps, flouting norms, finds HT). In November 2013, a young doctor lost his life in a fire at a Mulund nursing home.
KEM Hospital and VN Desai Hospital, both run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, had expired fire extinguishers requiring replacement or refilling. "After HT's report I had called for an urgent meeting to replace these extinguishers. They have started the process and many have already been replaced," said Dr Shubhangi Parkar, dean of KEM Hospital in Parel. The hospital which is undergoing a major renovation has about 150 extinguishers in place, majority of which were found to be expired when HT visited the hospital. "We are going to conduct a fire drill once in two to three months and start training our staffers to use these fire-fighting equipment."
KEM Hospital, which has around 1800 beds and treats double that number of patients on a daily basis, requires an evacuation strategy to avoid a major mishap such as Kolkata's AMRI hospital, where 89 people were killed in 2011 after a fire broke out, said fire safety officials.
Of the four hospitals which HT visited last month to measure their preliminary compliance to fire safety norms also included Lilavati Hospital in Bandra and Global Hospital in Parel. While the private hospitals fared better, VN Desai Hospital, a 254 bedded facility did not have a single fire extinguisher in a working condition. "We have removed all the expired extinguishers and they will be replaced by Friday. We are also putting up signage to direct patients to exits in case of emergency," said Dr KG Pimple, superintendent of the hospital.
Experts pointed out that hospital are the worst affected in a fire emergency as they house patients who are immobile and their relatives who are unaware about the exit and entry routes in the premises. Also at any given time doctors are conducting life saving surgery which cannot be abandoned in case of a fire.