Bhopal hospital fire: Medical facility didn't apply for no-objection certificate despite getting multiple notices
The hospital neither obtained a fire safety NOC in the last 15-20 years nor did it ever conduct a fire safety audit of the building, sources at the Bhopal Municipal Corporation said.
BHOPAL: Hours after a blaze at Bhopal’s Kamla Nehru Hospital killed four infants, it emerged that the government-run medical facility did not even apply for a no-objection certificate from the fire department, despite getting multiple notices in recent months.
The fire broke out around 8.35 pm on Monday night in the paediatric ICU on the third floor, killing four newborns who were only 1-9 days old and had not even been named by their parents, reports said.
The hospital neither obtained a fire safety NOC in the last 15-20 years nor did it ever conduct a fire safety audit of the building, sources at the Bhopal Municipal Corporation told this newspaper.
“Despite being served notice four to five times in last six months, the hospital management didn’t get the fire safety NOC,” said Bhopal Municipal Corporation Additional Commissioner (Fire Services) KS Parihar.
The tragedy has thrown a spotlight on the gross neglect by most hospital administrators in Bhopal.
More than two-thirds of the 500-600 big and small medical facilities in Bhopal haven’t gotten a fire safety NOC, sources said.
At the Kamla Nehru Hospital, attendants who tried to douse the fire found to their dismay that the fire-safety equipment didn’t work. Parihar, the BMC official, said the equipment was either outdated or non-functional.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Tuesday ordered for the fire safety audit of all government and private hospitals in the state.
The chief minister said the fire at the hospital in the state capital on Monday was a result of "criminal negligence", and the guilty will not be spared.
"It was our (government's) responsibility to save these children as they were under our protection. This is a serious incident," he said addressing state ministers and government officials before the cabinet meeting.
"This is criminal negligence. Whoever is guilty will not be spared, we need to prevent such unfortunate incidents in future. All necessary arrangements should be made to avoid such incidents," he said.
The CM also said fire safety was now more important as oxygen plants and their supply lines were installed at various hospitals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A major fire broke out on Monday in the special newborn care unit (SNCU) located on the third floor of the government-run Kamla Nehru Children's Hospital building here, killing four infants.
"I had directed earlier also to conduct the fire safety audit of hospitals. Now, I am telling the chief secretary to submit a report about in which hospitals fire safety audit was conducted and which were left out," Chouhan said before the state cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Chouhan also ordered for the fire safety audit of all government and private hospitals of the state again to prevent such incidents in future.
He praised state Medical Education Minister Vishvas Sarang, who immediately rushed to the hospital here after the blaze on Monday and took care of the relief works.
"The doctors, nurses, ward boys and other people who saved 36 infants by putting their lives in danger will be feliciated," the CM said.
Chouhan also said he was keen to visit the spot on Monday night, but "I was stopped so that the relief work could go on smoothly".
The CM said he was issuing directives to the officials throughout the night and taking stock of the situation.
After the fire in the hospital here on Monday, Chouhan had ordered a high-level probe into it, to be conducted by Additional Chief Secretary, health and medical education, Mohammad Suleiman.
Meanwhile, state Urban Administration Minister Bhupendra Singh, who is in-charge minister of Bhopal district, also visited the fire-hit hospital here on Tuesday along with Sarang.
"A big tragedy was averted as the infants were timely shifted to another place. At present, we have information of four deaths. The inquiry will reveal what led to their deaths. This is a sad incident and measures are being taken to avoid such incidents in future," Singh said.
According to Sarang, a total of 40 children were admitted to the SNCU of the Kamla Nehru Children's Hospital.
Out of them, 36 were undergoing treatment in different wards, he said.
Four children died in the fire that broke out probably due to a short circuit, he said.
The chief minister earlier announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh each for the family members of the victims.
Apex child rights body NCPCR on Tuesday sought constitution of an inquiry team comprising senior officers to look into the matter.
National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Priyank Kanoongo asked the Madhya Pradesh chief secretary to constitute an inquiry team to look into the incident.
The NCPCR said the team must comprise a senior administrative officer but not from the health department or medical education department of Madhya Pradesh to inquire into lapses in available equipments and facilities in special newborn care units, director general, fire services, civil defence and home guard department (from fire services) to inquire into lapses in available fire prevention mechanism, fire exit, provision of detection, alarm and fire extinguishers.
The team must also include a senior officer from Public Works Department (with background of civil engineering) to inquire into lapses in infrastructure and layout and a senior police officer not below the rank of Inspector General, it said.
The Commission also sought to know the number of children affected due to the fire incident and details of hospitals where infants have been shifted.
"Further, it may kindly be ensured that infants shifted in other hospitals have SNCUs and are provided with all the necessary treatment. The families of the deceased infants may kindly be provided with adequate compensation," the NCPCR said.
It sought a preliminary action taken report within three days.
The NCPCR also asked states and union territories to conduct fire safety audits in all hospitals, medical colleges, nursing homes having medical facilities for children.
Earlier this year, at least 10 newborns died in a fire at a government hospital in Maharashtra's Bhandara.
Quoting these incidents, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Priyank Kanongoo asked all states to carry out fire audits.
"To prevent recurrence of fire incidents in hospitals, NCPCR recommends that fire safety audits should be undertaken in all hospitals/medical colleges/nursing homes having Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Special Newborn Care Units and other medical facilities for children," the NCPCR said.
"Further, it may be ensured that such medical facilities meant for children should get 'no objection certificate' (NOC) from fire department and get renewal only after they meet the given criteria," it added.
The NCPCR said necessary directions may be given to all the districts to strictly follow the fire safety measures as per the existing guidelines and as stipulated in the existing State Fire Service Act, National Building Code of India, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to avoid any mishap in the future.
The NCPCR also sought a district-wise compliance report within 30 days from the date of issue of this letter issued on Tuesday.
(With PTI Inputs)