Maharashtra grants Rs1.93 crore for fire safety measures at Bhandara hosp
Months after a fire at the Bhandara district hospital in Nagpur killed 10 babies in the sick newborn care unit (SNCU), the state health department has granted ₹1.93 crore for fire safety measures at the hospital.
In January, a baby warmer caught fire due to a short-circuit, which spread to the whole outborn section at the hospital’s SNCU, where 17 newborns were admitted. Seven babies were rescued. Following the incident, several loopholes in the fire safety measures were identified during the inspection at the hospital. Some fire extinguishers were found expired, the emergency fire alarms were dysfunctional and the electric wiring of the hospital was faulty, among others.
“The hospital didn’t even have luminous fire exit signs in case of a fire. Also, fire exits in many departments were either locked or turned into store rooms for unused furniture and machines. After inspection, we submitted a complete report to the public health department with the requirement amendments,” said a senior officer from the Nagpur health department.
“We have accorded administrative approval and work will be done soon through the state PWD with the state budget. A government resolution (GR) regarding the same has been issued recently,” said Dr Pradeep Vyas, additional chief secretary (health), government of Maharashtra.
Additionally, the state has also granted ₹96.19 lakh for procuring essential equipment for the SNCU. “This amount was granted in January as all the equipment got destroyed in the fire. The process of repair is still underway,” said the officer.
Following the incident, several officers, including district civil surgeon Dr Pramod Khandate, on-duty medical officer of the hospital Dr Archana Meshram, and nurse in-charge Jyoti Bharaskar were suspended. While additional civil surgeon Dr Sunita Bade was transferred, the contract of paediatrician Dr Stuti Ambade and two staff nurses – Smita Sanjay Ambil Duke and Shubhangi Sathavane – of the hospital were terminated.
Although health activists have welcomed the move of the state government in revamping fire safety measures at the hospital, they criticised the officers for their negligence. “This is the story of all government hospitals, especially in rural areas. The hospitals run on skeletal staff and there is no mechanism to implement fire safety rules. The electric wires keep hanging from the roof, fire extinguishers are expired. In fact, staffers aren’t even trained how to handle fire extinguishers or rescue patients in case of a fire accident,” said Dr Ravikant Singh, founder of the non-government NGO—Doctors for you.