Delhi, Rajkot tragedies ring alarm bells on Lucknow hospitals - Hindustan Times

Delhi, Rajkot tragedies ring alarm bells on Lucknow hospitals

May 28, 2024 09:22 AM IST

Fire safety audits begin in Lucknow; of over 900 private hosps here, only 211 have fire NoC; probe report on SGPGI blaze leaves unanswered questions about potential staff negligence

LUCKNOW Even as the Delhi and Rajkot fire tragedies prompted safety audits and checks at Lucknow hospitals and other public places, no one has been held responsible for the blaze at the SGPGI in December 2023, which claimed lives of two patients. A series of fire safety measures were announced at the institute with the director announcing an inquiry, but a few months on, the probe report remains shrouded in secrecy.

A fire at SGPGI had claimed two lives in December 2023. (File Photo)
A fire at SGPGI had claimed two lives in December 2023. (File Photo)

Officials haven’t disclosed findings from the seven-member government probe, sparking concerns over transparency and accountability. The report, submitted to the state government, lacks critical details on the cause of fire and preventive measures, leaving unanswered questions about potential staff negligence.

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Two patients, including a child undergoing a surgery, died and two patients were injured when a major fire broke out on the first floor of Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow last year. The first floor of the hospital houses the operation theatre and post-operation care ward. According to insiders, the fire broke out when surgery was about to begin.

However, SGPGI director Prof RK Dhiman said, “The fire incident originated at the anesthesia workstation due to a spark. It spread rapidly because of oxygen supply at the workstation. Staff negligence was not to blame...they fought the fire using hydrants and other measures. The situation could have been worse. had fire hydrants, pipes, and extinguishers not been in working condition.”

Dhiman said an inquiry was conducted, and the recommendations from the report had been implemented. The report recommended regular checks on all hydrants, lock cutters, and hammers, which he confirmed. Additionally, an evacuation plan had been established, particularly for C Block, which houses the laboratory. “We have ensured open exit systems. Now, exit doors are kept open so that people can escape in case of any fire,” added Dhiman.

The number of fire extinguishers has been increased and the electric wiring is replaced, he said. Moreover, the hospital had two canteens where food was cooked on LPG cylinders. Based on the committee’s recommendations, these have been replaced with hot plates and microwaves to prevent any potential fire incidents.

“We have removed almost every source of fire in our hospital. Despite that, natural calamities can occur, so we remain alert and check the infrastructure every month,” concluded Dhiman.

However, a doctor at the institute said: “Despite these measures, the lack of transparency about the investigation’s findings and the delay in holding anyone accountable have left doubts about the institution’s commitment to safety and accountability. Now, two major tragedies have shaken the nation, highlighting the urgent need for improved fire safety measures.”

He added, “The tragic incident at Baby Care New Born Hospital in Vivek Vihar, Delhi, on Saturday night, which claimed lives of seven newborns, has forced the authorities to think over fire safety in hospitals. The Delhi fire incident is a stark reminder of the urgent need for stringent fire safety measures in hospitals to prevent such tragedies in future.”

As many as 27 people, including four children, were killed in a massive fire that swept through a gaming arcade in Gujarat’s Rajkot. The blaze might have started due to welding work.

Alarmingly, over 90% of hospitals in Lucknow solely rely on fire extinguishers, which was an insufficient measure while many private hospitals lacked emergency fire exit doors.The indifference of officials towards enhancing fire safety systems exacerbated the risk, leaving patients to bear the brunt of this negligence, said fire officials.

The fire department has ramped up vigilance and an advisory has been issued to hospitals, emphasizing the need for urgent action. In Lucknow alone, out of over 900 private hospitals, only 211 have a fire no-objection certificate (NoC). This leaves approximately 700 hospitals vulnerable to fire hazards, they added.

On May 26, additional chief secretary Deepak Kumar issued an order directing all district magistrates (DMs), police commissioners, chief fire officers, and other officials to conduct thorough inspections of major crowded places. The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by HT, mandates fire audits and evacuation drills at high-risk locations. These include restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, particularly children’s hospitals, malls, gaming zones, banquet halls, high-rise buildings and apartments across all districts of UP.

The letter also highlights the risk of fire accidents due to the current rising temperatures.

Chief fire officer (CFO) Mangesh Kumar said, “We have started fire safety checks in all hospitals of Lucknow and already completed the fire safety audit of gaming zones...”

“After the Delhi incident, all fire safety officers have been directed to inspect hospitals in their respective areas. Notices will be issued to those failing to meet the standards, coupled with efforts to raise fire safety awareness,” he added.

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