11 Covid patients die in Maharashtra hospital fire

Updated on Nov 07, 2021 02:43 AM IST

Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has ordered a probe into the incident, and the state health minister Rajesh Tope has announced an ex gratia amount of ₹5 lakh to the kin of each of the deceased.

View of a hospital's COVID-19 ward that caught fire in Ahmednagar, in the western state of Maharashtra.(Reuters)
View of a hospital's COVID-19 ward that caught fire in Ahmednagar, in the western state of Maharashtra.(Reuters)
ByNadeem Inamdar, , Hindustan Times, New Delhi

At least 11 Covid-19 patients, including four women, admitted in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the civil hospital in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, died in a fire on Saturday morning, officials said.

The fire broke out at 11am at the ground floor of the hospital, where 17 patients were admitted, at least 15 of whom were on ventilator or oxygen support. While 10 elderly patients died in the blaze at the spot, one person who was critically injured succumbed after being rescued.

Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has ordered a probe into the incident, and the state health minister Rajesh Tope has announced an ex gratia amount of 5 lakh to the kin of each of the deceased.

The district collector said that pending official investigation the fire was likely caused by a short circuit.

An inquiry committee has been constituted to find out the cause of the fire, Union minister Bharati Pawar said.

“There were 17 Covid patients admitted [to the ICU] when the fire broke out at around 11 am. Eleven out of the 17 have lost their lives. A short circuit seems to be the possible cause of the incident,” Ahmednagar collector Rajendra Bhosale said.

The hospital has two wings of ICU — on the ground and second floors. The fire broke out on the ground floor ward which only housed Covid-19 patients, an official said. No other casualties have been reported from any of the other wards.

“An FIR is being registered under section 304A IPC (causing death by negligence) against unknown people. An officer equivalent to a police inspector or DCP will be deputed to conduct the investigation,” Deepak Pandey, Nashik Police Commissioner, said.

Of the 17 people admitted, 15 were on ventilator or oxygen support in the ICU. “Saving them was the priority. But due to their critical condition, to remove the oxygen support and bring them out was a tough decision,” said one fire department official, asking not to be named. There was a lot of smoke which the patients would have inhaled and which led to their death, another official said.

“After discussion, we decided to bring them out anyhow and later put them back on oxygen or other support systems,” he added.

Fire brigade officials said that all patients in the ICU, which was set up barely 18 months ago, were badly injured and were shifted to another room immediately as firemen brought the fire under control by 1.30pm.

“The chief minister spoke to the district guardian minister Hasan Mushrif and chief secretary (Sitaram Kunte) and asked to ensure those needing medical attention won’t have to face any difficulties. He also ordered the district collector (Rajendra Bhosale) to conduct a detailed probe of the incident and submit a report,” a statement issued by the CM’s office said.

The hospital carried out a fire audit earlier this year, but a lack of funds prevented the management from installing all necessary fire safety equipment, Shankar Misal, chief fire officer of Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation, said.

The audit carried out by the fire brigade department between the last week of January and the first week of February recommended that an effective firefighting system, including a sprinkler system and a pipeline should be installed in the hospital, though the hospital had fire extinguishers.

Union minister of state for Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pawar visited the hospital on Saturday and met the met six patients who were undergoing treatment as well as their relatives.

The central government sends instructions regarding the fire safety audit (to hospitals) regularly. “We are awaiting reports. Accordingly, action will be taken against the guilty,” she said.

The deceased, aged between 55 and 85, have been identified as Sitaram Dagdu Jadhav (83), Ramkisan Vithhal Harpude ( 70), Satyabhama Shivaji Ghodchoure (65) , Kadubal Gangadhar Khatik ( 65), Shivaji Sadashiv Pawar ( 82), Deepak Vishwanath Jedgule (57) , Kondiba Madhukar (70), Asrabai Nangre ( 58), and Chabibi Ahmed Sayyed (65).

“Anguished by the loss of lives due to a fire in a hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover at the earliest,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter

“Very shocking & disturbing news from Nagar,” posted Fadnavis from his personal handle on Twitter. “My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in the Nagar civil hospital ICU fire incident. Praying for the speedy recovery of the injured. An in-depth inquiry should be conducted and strict action should be taken against all responsible people,” leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis also tweeted.

Saturday’s fire follows a spate of similar incidents in Maharashtra hospitals. On April 21, 24 Covid patients on life support died at a municipal hospital in Nashik after a leak in a medical oxygen tank. The same month, at a time when the second wave of the pandemic was at its peak, 15 Covid patients died as fire engulfed the ICU ward of the Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar, around 60 km from Mumbai. The previous month, 11 Covid positive patients died in a fire at a hospital in the eastern suburb of Bhandup in Mumbai. The fire broke out in a mall in which the Covid-designated hospital was housed. The dead included those on ventilator support. In January, 10 newborn infants died in the Sick Newborn Care Unit of the district hospital in Bhandara after a fire began in radiant warmer control panel and melted the central oxygen pipe.

The incidents and the criticism that ensued led the state to issue a formal notification in August, placing the onus of fire safety audits on the hospitals, both private and government-run, including those which were dedicated Covid hospitals.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Yogesh Joshi is Assistant Editor at Hindustan Times. He covers politics, security, development and human rights from Western Maharashtra.

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