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HomeNews ReportsMaharashtra: Here is how 6 major hospital tragedies in 2021 left over 75 dead

Maharashtra: Here is how 6 major hospital tragedies in 2021 left over 75 dead

On January 9 this year, 10 infants were killed in a fire accident at the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) of the Bhandara District General Hospital in Maharastra.

Maharashtra is in the throes of a raging coronavirus outbreak that threatens to overwhelm the state’s healthcare infrastructure. The crisis has been compounded by the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s inept handling of the pandemic. The government had failed to save human lives, not only affected by the pandemic but due to administrative negligence in hospitals. About 75 people had died due to fire accidents and other mishaps at 6 hospitals in the State in 2021 alone. Here are the details of each incident.

January: Hospital fire in Bhandara take the lives of 10 babies

On January 9 this year, 10 infants were killed in a fire accident at the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) of the Bhandara District General Hospital in Maharastra. The fire broke out at 1:30 am at night. At that time, a staff nurse saw smoke coming out of the ward where infants were being treated. On entering the ward, the nurse could see nothing but smoke. Chief surgeon Pramod Khandate informed, “She informed the higher authorities and all of us reached there. As far as possible, we personally took the babies outside and in the next five minutes, fire brigade reached.”

Only 7 infants could be rescued from the SNCU of the hospital. The death of 10 toddlers created political upheaval in the State of Maharashtra. While speaking about the incident, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray remarked, “All hospitals in the State should undergo fire audit immediately. The State’s health team is fighting the coronavirus, but there cannot be any compromise with the safety of the hospitals and patients.” He had also announced an ex-gratia of ₹5 lacs to the families of the deceased children.

The identification of 9 babies was done immediately while the identity of one baby remained undetermined. The toddler was found on the roadside and was brought to the hospital for treatment. A case was also filed against the parents of the abandoned child. Lokesh Kanse, a senior police inspector at the Bhandara City police station, had informed, “Prima facie, the fire seems to have originated from Air Conditioner. The death of the babies happened due to suffocation that was caused by the smoke. A case of accidental death has been registered and further investigations are on.”

Visuals from the district hospital in Bhandara, image via India Today

According to SP Vasant Jadhav, four experts team were brought to Bhandara from Nagpur Fire Service College, Electrical Department and Forensic Department to determine the exact cause of the fire. After 12 days of the fire accident, the Maharashtra government suspended medical officer Dr Archana Meshram and nurse Jyoti Bharaskar, who were on duty at that time. At the same time, the district civil surgeon Dr Pramod Khandate was also suspended in the aftermath of the tragic incident.

Besides, an additional civil surgeon Dr Sunita Bade was transferred from the hospital. Paediatrician Dr Stuti Ambade and two nurses namely Smita Duke and Shubhangi Sathavane were terminated from service. The action was taken after the Nagpur Divisional Commissioner submitted an inquiry report to Health Secretary. The 6-member committee, formed to probe the incident, accused civil surgeon Khandate and additional civil surgeon Bade of negligence.

March: 11 die after Mumbai hospital fire accident

On March 25, about 11 Coronavirus infected patients died after a fire broke out on the first floor of Dream Mall, which had a dedicated Coronavirus treatment facility. The incident took place in the Bhandup area of Mumbai. Reportedly, the Covid-19 centre was established inside the mall due to a lack of beds during the rise of Coronavirus cases in the State in 2020.

The Sunrise Hospital was located on the third floor of the mall. It had a capacity of 107 beds. The hospital authorities were able to evacuate a total of 68 people while 11 patients died of suffocation. The fire service officials informed that the fire broke out on the first floor of the mall and then spread to the second and third floors. “We managed to rescue 68 patients from the hospital with the joint effort of all agencies…We have filed a case with the Bhandup police station and the reasons behind the fire will be probed. Police will also check as to whether all permissions and NOCs related to fire safety were obtained,” an official had informed.

Firefighters extinguishing the fire at Sunrise hospital, image via Emmanual Yogini

However, Covid-19 patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and ventilation could not be evacuated. The 68 rescued individuals were taken to nearby Coronavirus centres. In a statement, Sunrise Hospital said, “It is functioning with all due compliances such as fire licence and nursing home license. The hospital staff did a fantastic job in safely evacuating patients on wheelchairs and beds to the refuge areas and by following the fire drills.” Following the incident, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray visited the location. The BJP demanded that the BMC and Maha Vikas Aghadi take responsibility for the incident.

April: Oxygen leak at Nashik hospital leave 24 dead

On April 21, an incident of oxygen leakage at Dr Zakir Husain Hospital in Nashik had left 24 dead. About 22 Coronavirus patients had suffocated to death after the oxygen supply came to a sudden halt due to malfunctioning in the main storage of the hospital. Later in the day, 2 more patients, who were on ventilators, had died due to inadequate oxygen supply. At the time of the incident, about 150 patients were admitted to the hospital.

Following the oxygen leakage and subsequent casualties, the Nashik police lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against unidentified persons for culpable homicide and negligence. A compensation of ₹5 lakhs was announced by Uddhav Thackeray for the family of the deceased. While speaking about the matter, Nashik collector Suraj Mandhre informed, “The supply tank that was set up in this hospital started leaking due to cork damage after which the pressure decreased and those on invasive ventilator did not receive adequate oxygen on time. 22 people have died.”

Leakage of medical oxygen at the Dr Zakir Husain Hospital, image via PTI

He further added, “After nearly an hour, the same tank has been started. It is being used to supply oxygen to the patients now. However, the decrease in pressure, earlier, led to the incident.” Ventilators in the hospital were stopped for at least 30 minutes due to the oxygen deprivation caused by the tank leak. Reportedly, a private company was tasked to carry out the maintenance of the oxygen tank.

When the leakage was noticed, the hospital authorities contacted the Municipal Commissioner Kailash Jadhav and sought technical help. At the time of the incident, the oxygen level was around 25% in the storage tank. According to an official, the leakage occurred while oxygen was being filled from a tanker to one of the tanks. After a video of the incident when viral on social media, Nashik police commissioner Deepak Pandey deployed adequate police at the hospital premises to avoid any untoward incident.

April: Hospital fire accident in Virar takes 15 lives

On April 23 this year, about 15 Coronavirus positive patients died in a fire accident at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Vijay Vallabh Hospital. The said hospital is located in Virar, about 50 km away from the city of Mumbai.

Reportedly, the fire broke out at 3 am in the ICU, housing about 17 Coronavirus positive patients at that time. The Intensive Care Unit is located on the 2nd floor of the hospital. On receiving information, the fire service immediately rushed to the spot and extinguished it by 5:20 am. About 15 people died in the fire mishap. The remaining patients were sent to Dahisar Covid Centre and other hospitals in Virar.

Visuals of the aftermath of fire accident at Vijay Vallabh Hospital (Photo Credits: Indian Express)

A detailed investigation was ordered by Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope to determine whether all safety norms were adhered to by the hospital. Following public outcry, State CM Uddhav Thackeray announced an ex gratia of ₹5 lac to the family of those who died. PM Modi also announced an ex gratia of ₹2 lac to the family of the deceased. Ex-Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis sought an audit of all hospitals in Maharashtra.

In July, the Arnala police filed a chargesheet wherein they accused hospital owner Bastimal Shah, CEO Dr Dilip Shah and chief administrative officer Dr Shailesh Pathak of not doing anything, despite being well aware of the possibility of a fire outbreak. The charge sheet also emphasised how there was a delay in reporting the fire to the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation fire brigade. By the time the fire vehicles reached the hospital, the second floor was completely charred.

The investigators also found that the Vijay Vallabh hospital did not adhere to the guidelines laid down by the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act. Moreover, the hospital did not obtain a NOC from the municipality for the year 2021-2022. At the same time, no safety agency was appointed to carry out the fire audit of the hospital premises.

April: Mumbra hospital fire accident in April, reported 4 dead

On April 28 morning, a fire broke out at the Prime Criticare hospital in Mumbra, leading to the death of 4 patients. The hospital fell under the jurisdiction of the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) which had claimed that all hospitals were fire-resistant. The Hindu reported that the building was 16 years old and was served two notices on earlier occasions, the last one being on February 21. However, the Thana Municipal Corporation did not do any follow-up.

While speaking about the matter, the fire chief of Mumbra TM Mishra stated “Although there was a fire exit on the premises, it was getting difficult to rescue, as the pathway was closed with storage material. We have served two notices to the hospital, however, there was no response.” The locals informed that the fire exit was blocked and there was only one exit available. “The hospital is congested and fire exit was obstructed with storage material. There is one exit for patients. So we had to break open the grille of a window at the back of the hospital. Moreover, there was only one staircase, the other was a ramp,” a local said.

Fire broke out at the Prime Criticare hospital in Mumbra, image via Indian Express

The Thane Municipal Corporation conceded that over 70% of the hospitals had been operating in illegal buildings. However, they had not initiated a crackdown, keeping in mind the Covid-19 situation in the State and their necessity at the time of the pandemic. According to chief fire officer Girish Zalke, the incident occurred due to panel overheating. “It is an accident that occurred due to electric faults on the premises,” he added.

November: Hospital accident fire in Ahmednagar left 11 dead

Fires and untoward mishaps at hospitals in Maharashtra had become a dangerously common occurrence. After a spate of accidents was reported at several hospitals earlier this year, another unfortunate incident was reported from Ahmednagar. A major fire broke out at the District Hospital on November 6, killing at least 11 coronavirus patients and leaving scores of others injured.

The fire broke out at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the District Hospital, where at least 25 patients were admitted, according to a report published by India Today. Six of them suffered serious burn injuries in the incident. Prima facie reports suggested that an electrical short-circuit might have started the fire. However, the exact cause of conflagration could only be determined after a thorough probe into the matter is completed.

Fire erupted at Ahmednagar district hospital(Image Credits: Indian Express)

According to the sources, the fire broke out at the COVID ward in the new building of the hospital at around Saturday (November 6) morning. The state government announced had Rs 5 lakh compensation to the next of kin of those who died in the fire at Maharashtra hospital. Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has expressed his condolences over the deaths and has also ordered a probe into the incident. The district collector Rajendra Bhosale has reportedly been asked to conduct an inquiry into the incident and submit the report within a week.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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