Delhi infant deaths: All on-duty staffers fled when fire began, says employee | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Delhi infant deaths: All on-duty staffers fled when fire began, says employee

May 29, 2024 02:02 AM IST

“It was a horrific sight. But I went to the rear of the (Baby Care New Born hospital)building and saw nurses and staffers fleeing.”

A 25-year-old Ayurvedic practitioner who was inside the hospital when the fire broke on Saturday night told HT that the nurses and doctor on duty at the centre fled through the rear window of the hospital without rescuing the children.

Firefighters attempt to douse the fire after it broke out at a New Born Baby Care Hospital in Vivek Vihar on May 25 (ANI)
Firefighters attempt to douse the fire after it broke out at a New Born Baby Care Hospital in Vivek Vihar on May 25 (ANI)

“When the fire broke out, I ran outside. My first thought was that all the people on the first floor were stuck because the facade came down, blocking the entrance to the centre, and the cylinders kept exploding one after the other. It was a horrific sight. But I went to the rear of the building and saw nurses and staffers fleeing,” said the 25-year-old.

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The employee was among the three Bachelors of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery doctors who were employed at the centre aside from an on-call doctor – an MBBS. One of the three was Akash Singh, a 26-year-old who was on duty at the time and ran away when the fire broke out.

“There were three nurses who were on duty that night. Two of them helped rescue the children. Akash Singh was on duty at the time but he fled,” said a police officer aware of the matter.

Delhi baby hospital fire tragedy: Grieving parents recall horror, demand justice

The 25-year-old’s statement has been recorded by police along with that of other staffers as part of the investigation. “The roles and responsibilities of each employee is being examined and legal action will be decided according to what the probe reveals,” said a police officer associated with the case.

Inside the hospital

The 25-year-old Ayurvedic practitioner, the son of a vegetable vendor from Hisar, Haryana, said that he was hired by the accused, Dr Naveen Khichi, on May 18to watch over the children from 8am to 6pm. While on duty, he stayed on the first floor where the children were treated. After work, he was forced to stay on the premises of the Baby Care New Born Hospital till he was provided accommodation.

“Three nurses used to stay with the babies in one shift and the next set of three nurses would perform in the second shift. I was told to only observe the children and watch over them. In case of an emergency, I used to call Dr Khichi but my senior – another Ayurvedic practitioner — used to treat the children. After 6pm, I used to stay at the reception only, but I didn’t have to necessarily work,” he said. He said that Dr Khichi spent four-five hours a day at the centre and in his absence, the senior Ayurvedic practitioner used to attend to the infants.

Aside from the six nurses who worked in two shifts, there were two people at the reception who worked in shifts, and two sanitation workers, drivers and attendants at the hospital, he added.

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“I was not told about my salary. They said they’ll tell me later about my salary,” he said. According to investigators, Dr Khichi was paying around 40,000 a month to the other two Ayurvedic practitioners, including Dr Akash Singh, who was arrested in the case.

Fire breaks out

On the night of the fire, the Ayurvedic practitioner was on the ground floor reception, scrolling through his phone, when hesaw smoke and flames spreading on the upper floors. “I immediately ran outside and saw the front facade come down. I didn’t know that there was a window on the first floor so I thought everybody was stuck,” he said. He went to the rear of the hospital and saw nurses and staffers climbing out of a window.

A senior police officer said, “Dr Akash Singh had fled by then while the nurses and staffers also left the building without saving the children. Two nurses stayed for some time and told local residents that babies were trapped inside. The locals then mounted the rescue.”

According to him, the fire began on the upper floors and not the ground floor. Investigators, in their preliminary probe, also suspected that the fire started in a second-floor room where an oxygen cylinder and a generator were kept.

The police’s first information report said it had recovered 32 oxygen cylinders, of which five were burnt. Local residents alleged that Dr Khichi was trading cylinders. However, police found no evidence to the effect, said investigators.

The Ayurvedic practitioner said that the oxygen cylinders were stored on the ground floor outside the reception and denied that any cylinders were traded. “With one incubator, sometimes one cylinder was used in full. They were not brought or refilled every day but every two or three days,” he said.

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