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Putting patients at risk: No fire safety audit conducted in Pune hospitals in five years

Healthcare institutions in the city are far behind when it comes to implementing fire safety norms set by the fire department

pune Updated: Dec 28, 2018 15:00 IST
Nozia Sayyed
Nozia Sayyed
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,fire safety audit,Pune hospitals
Fire fighter rescues patients from ESIC hospital which caught fire at Marol, Andheri on December 17.(HT/PHOTO)

Its barely been a week since a deadly fire broke out at the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) Hospital in Marol that claimed eight lives including that of a two-month infant and injuring 145 patients, however prominent government and healthcare institutions in the city are far behind when it comes to implementing fire safety norms set by the fire department.

Post the fire incident in Mumbai’s ESIC hospital that claimed multiple lives, there was a survey by the Brihan-Mumbai Municipal Corporation which was carried out in hospitals to check their fire safety levels. The survey resulted that more than ten per cent of the hospitals were ill equipped when it came to fire safety. Looking at this unfortunate incident, Pune however has not woken up and shockingly enough, it has conducted no such survey in the last five years.

According to the hospital board of the India Medical Association (IMA), there has been no survey in the city hospitals by the fire safety department in the last five years. The fire safety department too has accepted of not being able to conduct a yearly survey due to major staff crunch but instead suggests that hospitals should be responsible enough to check their fire safety as patients are at risk.

Dr Sanjay Patil, chairman of the Hospital Board of India, Pune, IMA said, “No such survey has been done in the hospitals in Pune, in the last five years. In fact we go to these hospitals to inspect when it is time for the renewal of the fire safety license. Not just that we also invite them for our meetings that are related to fire safety and also request them for workshops on mock fire drills.”

Patil added that fortunately enough in the last few years after the Galaxy Care Hospital’s fire incident no such fire break out has happened in any hospital so far. “We have not witnessed any fire incident in any hospital in the last five years which is a good sign but we still believe that the fire safety officials should consider getting the yearly surveys done rather than relying on us every time,” said Patil adding there are as many as 600 hospitals in Pune and not every one can go to them. “It is the patients lives that is at risk and we want hospitals to be equipped in all measures. Fire safety is essential and hence the fire department should take care of the necessities.”

However when divisional officer of fire department, Pune Sunil Gilbile was asked to share the number of surveys his department has conducted in the last five years in hospitals, he said, “We have not conducted any surveys but routine mock rills are always conducted buy our officials and hence it has had a positive impact and in the last few years no hospital has suffered any fire break out.”

On asking how many hospitals were found to be ill equipped or were issued notices, Gilbile said, “There are a few but I don’t remember.”

However on the failure of not being able to conduct a proper yearly survey in hospitals, Gilbile said, “We have a huge staff crunch. We need thrice the size of current employees. There are only 12 fire officers and we need 80. We have 490 staffers whereas we need 1,500 more. This has been the situation for the last 15 years; hence we cannot conduct all the work that should be done by us for the city when it comes to hospitals.”

There are severe internal problems when it comes to staff crunch . Our requests are falling on deaf ears and hence we are helpless,” said Gilbile , He added, “Hospitals should find their own way to avoid fire incidences which anyway they have been doing as we have not witnessed any such unfortunate incident in the last five years now.”

Talking about fire safety in hospitals, Dr Nitin Bhagali, founder, Bhagali Nursing Home, said, “In case of a fire incident in a hospital, mortality is expected to be much higher than anywhere else; reasons being, patients are immobile due to various reasons. Hence mandatory installation of smoke detectors, fire alarms, use of fire resistant electric cables, use of MCBs for each room, fire extinguishers are practical solutions in hospitals to avoid or tackle the fire incident.”

Naresh Dave, general manager, Poona General Hospital, said, “We at Poona Hospital have our own Safety Officer who takes care of all the norms and also organise regular mock drills and regular rounds with the fire department along with the regular check up with the electricians and safety measures at the hospital. Hence, so far in the last few years we have never come across any fire incident in our hospital.”

Patients at risk

The fire department has not carried out a fire safety audit of hospitals in the city in the last five years

Hospitals in Pune (government, private) - 600

Fire department staff crunch

12 fire officers in the department, 80 needed

490 staffers, 15,000 more needed

The fire department is witnessing a staff crunch for the last 15 years now. Recruitment pending with state.

Fire department cites lack of staff as reason for inability to conduct a fire hazard audit in hospitals.

Lessons that city hospitals must learn from the Mumbai hospital fire incident:

According to the Maharashtra Industries Development Corporation (MIDC), the government-run Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) Hospital in Marol which comes under MIDC jurisdiction, may have flouted norms regulating glass facades and this proved to be a hindrance during rescue operations.

City hospitals must ensure that no illegal constructions are done on hospital premises.

Government-run ESIC hospital neither had functioning fire extinguishers and sprinklers, nor an emergency evacuation system in place.

City hospitals must ensure that all fire extinguishers are in place and are well within the expiry date. City hospitals must also have an evacuation plan ready.

Staff members of the ESIC hospital said the building did not have ramps, which would have made it easier to rescue bedridden patients.

City hospitals must conduct mock drills in-case of a fire breakout.

While the fire department has a major staff crunch, city hospitals must ensure that a fire safety audit is done on regular basis.

First Published: Dec 28, 2018 15:00 IST