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226 hospitals in Kerala vulnerable to fire outbreaks

High patient load and efforts to scale up facilities in hospitals to fight the pandemic has stressed the hospital system, thereby making it more vulnerable to fire accidents.

Published: 03rd August 2021 07:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd August 2021 07:17 AM   |  A+A-

When fire broke out from the canteen at SP Fort Hospital. The hospital authorities averted a major mishap after they quickly shifted the remaining gas cylinders from the premises | Vincent P

By Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: State-wide audit finds most number of hospitals with safety issues are in the capital. With increasing patient load, use of alcohol-based sanitisers and stocking up of medical oxygen, carelessness and lack of functioning fire safety equipment can be disastrous, say officials

High patient load and efforts to scale up facilities in hospitals to fight the pandemic has stressed the hospital system, thereby making it more vulnerable to fire accidents. With the vulnerability of hospitals to fire outbreaks increasing, a fire audit was conducted by the Fire and Rescue Services Department in 589 hospitals across the state, of which 226 failed to meet the safety parameters. As many as 243 hospitals were found to be functioning without a no-objection certificate from the department.

Recently, panic prevailed in a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram after a fire broke out in its canteen adjacent to the main building which led to the evacuation of patients although no injuries were reported. In view of the vulnerability of the hospitals, especially during the current pandemic, a fire audit was conducted from May till July 16 by the department officials in all districts.According to fire department authorities, the audit revealed that Thiruvananthapuran has the most number of hospitals with safety issues and 14 have been found to be functioning without a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department. While Palakkad district has the most number of hospitals functioning without the NOC, no fire safety issues were noticed.

Fire Director (Technical) M Noushad said due to the ongoing pandemic situation, the vulnerability of hospitals to fire outbreaks has also increased as the facilities in hospitals are stretched way too thin. “Increased use of alcohol-based sanitisers and hospitals stocking up the medical oxygen in excess to meet exigencies have also made hospitals vulnerable to fire outbreaks. The audit revealed that many of the hospitals in the state lacked fire safety measures. Other factors such as increased electrical load on life-saving electrical equipment and lack of sufficient ventilation in hospitals were also observed during the audit,” said Noushad.

He also added that the hospitals examined during the audit were immediately asked to update its fire safety measures and also train its staff in the safe handling of oxygen. “Even an increase to 24% or more in the oxygen level in the air increases chances of a fire, which can eventually turn fiercer. So, the hospitals have been instructed to keep a check on the oxygen levels in the air so that it does not exceed above 24%,” said the official.

The audit reports were also forwarded to the local body offices concerned to ensure the hospital authorities complied with the instructions of the fire department. “While some hospitals lacked the properly functional fire-fighting systems, others were found storing various flammable materials in a careless manner such as in corridors and stairways. A review inspection was conducted to check if the hospitals had made necessary changes and updated their equipment. However, 235 hospitals in the state were found to be functioning without complying with the safety parameters,” said an officer.

Meanwhile, the hospital authorities say all fire safety guidelines laid down by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) are being followed. “The safety norms listed in the NABH are being followed in the hospitals. Since, excess oxygen is also being stocked up in hospitals to be used during emergencies, more precautions are being taken to avoid fire outbreaks,” said IMA state president Dr P T Zacharias.



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