NEW DELHI: The city might get lucky once or twice, but, asks a Delhi Fire Services (DFS) official, for how long? He reveals shocking facts about Delhi hospitals, which have been ignoring notices and flouting safety norms.
Out of Delhi’s 38 state-run hospitals, 30 don’t have a No Objection Certificate (NOC) or have it suspended. Six others don’t fall in the hi-rise building category, while one is non-functional. Only one state hospital—Chaudhary Brahm Prakash Ayurved Charak Sansthan—has a valid NOC.
Hospitals that haven’t procured mandatory NOCs from the DFS are: the Electronic Data Processing (EDP) cell, New Ward Block, and Arrhythmia Centre at G B Pant Hospital, Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, Bhagwan Mahavir Hospital, Delhi State Cancer Institute at Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, Dr Hedgewar Arogya Sansthan Hospital, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Hospital, Guru Nanak Eye Centre Hospital, Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital, Maharishi Valmiki Hospital, Acharya Shri Bhikshu Hospital, Sushruta Trauma Centre, Kanti Nagar Maternity Hospital, Dr B R Sur Homeopathic Medical College, and Nehru Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital.
State hospitals whose NOCs have been suspended are: Jagjeevan Rao Memorial Hospital, Dada Dev Hospital, three blocks of Deen Dayal Upadhyay (DDU) Hospital, GTB Hospital, Guru Gobind Singh Hospital, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya Hospital, Janakpuri Super-speciality Hospital, Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Satyawadi Raja Harish Chandra Hospital, Jag Pravesh Chander Hospital, Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, Institute of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences, Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences and Rao Tula Ram Memorial Hospital.
In the wake of the AMRI blaze in Kolkata, DFS issued notices to all city hospitals last December to upgrade their firefighting systems, and gave them 90 days to get NOCs. The March 31 deadline has passed, but no work has been done, largely because DFS took no further action. In most hospitals, this correspondent found fire extinguishers to be empty, manually-operated electrical fire alarms out of order, and if there were some equipment, the staff were not trained enough to operate them.
The chief fire officer at DFS explained why getting a NOC is difficult. “NOC is issued after all fire equipment are upgraded, put in place, are found working, and have been checked by DFS officials. This needs a lot of funds,” he said.
Speaking to The Sunday Standard on the condition of anonymity, a government hospital PRO explained the problem faced in getting NOCs. “In a running hospital, it’s difficult to make even minor changes, as there are a lot of practical problems. If fire equipment has to be upgraded, or changes made, one may have to cut the power and water supply for a while, which is impossible as government hospitals get thousands of patients every day,” he said. He further added, “Suppose a wall has to be renovated, or an electrical wire changed, construction work is required. Not only does it disturb the peace inside the hospital, but also involves shifting patients of the ward under repair elsewhere.”
Contradicting this view, activists say state hospitals should abide by laws even if they have to stop taking patients for a while. “Hospitals should understand the need for a good fire fighting system. It’s not about keeping within laws, but about risking lives. Are we waiting for a disaster to open our eyes and take action?” asks activist Priya Subramanian.
Activists say DFS should take stern action against hospitals flouting the norms. “If they are not complying after being served notice, DFS should take punitive action,” says activist Ashok Pandey. Another worry—apart from Ram Manohar Lohia, no Delhi hospital with more than 500 beds, has a fire safety officer (FSO), despite DFS issuing notices to all of them to appoint one, after the Delhi Fire Service Act, 2010, was passed.
AIIMS recently appointed its security officer as FSO, but DFS has refused to ratify it. “A FSO has different qualifications. A security officer can’t do the job,” said a senior DFS officer. It’s been over a year, but AIIMS has been sitting quiet over the issue.