SUM Hospital fire tragedy: Hospital flouted fire safety norms, charges Odisha Government

So far, as many 106 patients who suffered injuries have been admitted to different hospitals of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

Published: 18th October 2016 09:59 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th October 2016 09:59 PM   |  A+A-


The fire engulfed the dialysis ward of the SUM hospital and the medicine ICU at about 7.30 pm. (Biswanath Swain | EPS)

By Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: Fire hydrants without any water which forced empty fire tenders to shuttle between the hospital and Fire Training Institute at Baramunda, about three kilometres away; not following the direction to set up the 25,000-litre overhead tank to deal with such fire mishaps; not building the emergency exit staircase as was specifically asked; non-functional water sprinklers inside the second floor where the fire broke out; and lack of an automatic fire alert system – the SUM Hospital management has a lot to answer as they are facing two cases over the tragic fire that claimed 20 lives in the late evening fire on Monday.

The fire officer (Central Range) lodged an FIR against the hospital management at Khandagiri Police Station citing negligence in installing fire safety measures in the hospital despite a string of recommendations made in 2013 following an audit. The hospital authorities are facing charges including culpable homicide not amounting to murder and negligence in dealing with combustible substances.

Following this, the Commissionerate Police arrested four employees including the medical superintendent, two engineers and a fire officer.

The State Government, which is on the dock for not inspecting safety measures in the hospital despite making the recommendations, slapped a second case for wilful negligence. Joint Director of Directorate of Medical Education and Training (DMET) registered the FIR on the grounds that there no evacuation plan nor a disaster response system was in place at the private hospital.

The charges were drawn after the day-long physical assessment and verification by the fire services wing and the health department. On its part, the police commissionerate deployed forensic and scientific teams as well as the Electrical Safety Inspector to assess the negligence that led to the biggest hospital fire in the State.

As public anger swelled against the hospital management, it found itself in a tight spot over the outcome of the Fire Safety Audit that was carried out 2013. Of about a dozen recommendations made by the Fire Services Wing, the premier hospital was found wanting on some significant counts.

Director General (Fire Services) Binoy Behera convened a meeting with his senior officers who were part of in the fire fighting team to ascertain the safety and preventive measures placed at the hospital. Following this, Behera submitted a report to Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi later in the day.

Detailing the faults that were exposed in the fire, sources said SUM Hospital was asked to build a 25,000 litre capacity overhead tank to meet water needs during fire mishaps, which, however, it failed to do. Shocking as it may sound, none of the fire hydrants in the hospital had water. As a result, the fire tenders controlling the flames ran out of water, and had to make several trips to the Fire Training Institute at Baramunda for refill. It consumed time and affected the fire control exercise.

During physical verification, Behera found out that emergency exit staircase was not built despite a clear recommendation to this effect. Such a stairwell on the outside of the hospital building was aimed at facilitating evacuation of patients and hospital staff while providing entry of fire fighters into the affected areas. Its absence clearly took its toll. In the second floor of the hospital where the fire broke out, there were no operational water sprinklers, nor was there an automatic fire alert system in place.

Despite pinning down the hospital for gross negligence, the State Government was unable to explain why no verification of fire safety measures was undertaken in the last three years which led to the tragedy of such proportions. The only answer Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak could provide was the department was proceeding as per law and would not spare anyone found negligent in duty.

Meanwhile, the toll climbed to 20 after a 75-year-old patient died at AIIMS on Tuesday morning. While 14 dead bodies were received at Capital Hospital, five were at AMRI Hospital.

Bodies of the victims were handed over to their kin after the post mortem examinations were completed. So far, as many 106 patients who suffered injuries have been admitted to different hospitals of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.


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