Private hospitals in Chennai to face check-up on disaster management infrastructure

In a first-of-its-kind exercise, the government has formed fact-finding teams to inspect all private hospitals in Chennai to find out how many comply with fire safety norms and have an active disaster

Published: 07th December 2017 02:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2017 11:38 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose

Express News Service

CHENNAI: In a first-of-its-kind exercise, the government has formed fact-finding teams to inspect all private hospitals in Chennai to find out how many comply with fire safety norms and have an active disaster management protocol to be followed during emergencies.

MR Enbasekaran, Director of Medical and Rural Health Services, issued a circular in this regard on December 4. A total of six teams have been formed, each comprising three-four members from the Public Works Department, medical officer and fire safety and rescue personnel.

Speaking to the Express, Dr Meenakshi Sundari, nodal officer, said the exercise, which began on Tuesday, would go on till December 12. “There are about 612 private hospitals in Chennai, which are ground plus one, and the teams will inspect each hospital and do a thorough check-up and submit a report,” she said, and added that at district level, the respective Joint Director of Health Services has been entrusted with the responsibility.

The idea was to create a centralised database through which the State can periodically monitor the hospitals’ compliance in terms of disaster management.

The initiative was taken following a Madras High Court order in a case filed by social activist Jawaharlal Shanmugham. In October 2016, the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services Department  had filed an affidavit, which said  government hospitals in Chennai do not have fire safety compliance certificates as mandated by law.  The affidavit also showed that  many leading private hospitals do not have compliance certificates.

The infamous incidents at the AMRI Hospital in Kolkata, and the SMU Hospital in Odisha more recently, prove why fire safety compliance is a must.

To a query, Dr Sundari said the situation in government hospitals had improved drastically. There are about 331 hospitals, including Primary Health Centres, under the Directorate of Medical and Rural Health Services. “We are conducing mock drills and calibrating the fire safety equipment for which `28 lakh has been sanctioned. Besides, 50% of personnel are being given training in fire safety, evacuation and other emergency procedures. Almost, 90% compliance has been achieved in government hospitals,” she claimed.

Now, the focus is on private hospitals. “Until today, we had data only on government hospitals. There was no information available about private hospitals since the licensing authorities such as Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had no obligation towards any of the medical directorates before granting building permits. But now, by virtue of the High Court order, a 14-member core expert committee has been formed in which all line departments have been made members. Besides, the Indian Medical Association and Tami Nadu Medical Council are also members. It’s a kind of census that is being conducted and once it’s done, we will press for corrective measures,” she said.

Jawaharlal Shanmugam, part of the State expert committee and accompanying fact-finding teams, said a majority of private hospitals didn’t have any disaster management plan. “Many hospitals don’t have set-back space; the terrace is used for putting-up enclosures, nurse quarters, kitchen and store rooms. There are many glaring violations. I have been fighting this case for two years and the government is now very pro-active,” he said.

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