May 28, 2024

Government orders fire inspections of all hospitals after fire outbreak


Following a deadly fire at a neonatal hospital in the Indian capital on Saturday night that left seven newborns charred and five injured, the Delhi government on Monday took steps to direct all hospitals to complete fire audits by June 8. A police investigation revealed major deficiencies, including that the hospital was operating on an expired licence and did not have permission from the fire department.

On Monday, Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj convened a meeting of health department officials to discuss the incident in East Delhi's Vivek Vihar area. After the high-level meeting, Bhardwaj said the Delhi government would direct all private and public hospitals to complete fire audits and submit compliance reports by June 8.

“On April 24, we issued fire safety instructions to all hospitals. On May 8, we asked them to conduct a fire audit. We ask all private hospitals and Delhi government-run hospitals to complete fire audits by June 8 and submit a compliance report to the health department,” Bhardwaj said.

He declared there would be no tolerance for perpetrators, regardless of their rank, announced tough new safety regulations making it mandatory for nursing homes taller than nine metres to install water sprinklers and smoke detectors, and ordered all CDMOs to carry out random inspections.

“The owner of this hospital is also running a similar hospital in Paschim Puri. Cases have been filed against the owner in two separate cases. These cases have been filed in Karkardooma and Tis Hazari courts. Surprise inspections were conducted and deficiencies were found, after which a case was filed against the owner. Once it was found that he was running the hospital without registration, a case was filed against the owner. We expect the courts to soon pass judgement against the owner of this nursing home in these cases and stringent punishment will be awarded,” he added.

Pointing out a very shocking fact about the incident, Bharadwaj said that oxygen refilling work was suspected to have been carried out on the lowest floor of the nursing home. “We are also investigating the matter. If such work was being carried out there, did the hospital authorities have permission for it and if not, on what basis was this work being carried out in the hospital and who was carrying out this work? We are currently investigating,” he said.

“Oxygen can cause fires to spread quickly, so oxygen refilling cannot be done just anywhere; there are regulations and government permission required.”

The bodies of five of the seven newborns who died in the hospital fire have been handed over to their families after post-mortem examination, and the bodies of the remaining two are expected to be handed over after post-mortem examination. A Delhi court also allowed a plea by the Delhi Police to remand the hospital manager, Dr Naveen Khich, and the doctor on duty, Dr Aksh, for three days for questioning.

Moreover, Shahdara District Magistrate Rishita Gupta submitted a factual report on the incident to the District Commissioner on Sunday. The report revealed that of the seven newborns who died, four were boys and three were girls. Except for one boy who was 25 days old, the rest were 15 days old. A detailed report on the incident is awaited.

He also said that two nurses and some local residents managed to rescue the baby without fearing for his life. “We will nominate the baby's name for a bravery award,” he added. He also said he would urge the revenue department to expedite the process of compensation to the families of babies killed or injured in the fire.

The meeting at the Delhi Secretariat was attended by health department officials including the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the Special Secretary for Health, and also discussed the heatwave situation. The Health Minister said, “In view of the ongoing heatwave situation, two beds will be reserved for heatstroke patients in each of the 26 government hospitals in Delhi, and five beds will be reserved at LNJP Hospital.”

Delhi government orders magistrate inquiry into fire incident: In an order issued on Sunday, District Commissioner Ashwani Kumar directed the district magistrate of Shahdara district to probe into the fire incident which occurred on Saturday night.

“And it is imperative that a magistrate inquiry be conducted into the aforesaid incident. Accordingly, the District Magistrate (Shahadra)/District Disaster Management Officer is directed to inquire into the said fire incident with a view to ascertaining the circumstances leading to the fire incident, identifying those responsible for the incident and suggesting measures to prevent recurrence of such incident in future,” the order said. The order also directs that the inquiry report be submitted “as expeditiously as possible”.

A case has been registered at Vivek Vihar police station under sections 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others), 304A (causing death by negligence), 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to cause culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code.

Both the arrested persons were produced before a court in Karkardooma in the afternoon. A forensic team and inspectors from the Electricity Department visited the spot on Monday to ascertain the exact cause of the fire.


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