Bhubaneswar: The callousness of state administration towards implementation of safety measures has become evident through the fire tragedy that struck on Monday at the Bhubaneswar based SUM Hospital. The death of 22 innocent people should serve as a bleak reminder to the authorities regarding fire safety precautions in health institutions or any of the high rise buildings that are springing up rapidly in and around the city. But it is likely this will not be enough.
Almost exactly a year ago a 12-year old boy lost his life owing to a fire incident at the Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Research Centre in October 2015. The reason behind the fire eruption was an electrical short circuit. In a similar incident, a fire broke out at the Sishu Bhawan injuring a new born in November last year. This May, a fire mishap was witnessed at the SCB Medical in its Cardio thoracic and Vascular Surgery department following which 104 patients including 20 from ICU were shifted. Soon after the last incident the state government had directed district Collectors to conduct inspection regarding fire safety certificates and take action against those who had not obtained such an NOC from fire services department. Fire safety measures guideline were to be issued to clinical establishments and those deviating from the guidelines were to pay penalty or even get closure notice.
But neither the Health Department authorities nor the DMET (Director, Medical Education and Training) carried out any major drives to inspect fire safety standards at these health centers. Plans of setting up fire stations in the three state run medical institutions also evaporated into thin air despite the directive to DG Fire Services coming from the Orissa High Court on urgent basis in the SCB Medical premises following the fire incident in May.
In 2011 too, the horrifying tragedy of 90 deaths in the AMRI Calcutta inferno had shaken up the state government but only temporarily. It was learned then that of the seven private hospitals only two had the fire clearance while at present only three hospitals (Apollo, Kalinga and AMRI) have the clearance. Yet, no action has ever been taken against those flouting the rules.
And while private hospitals are under the glare, state run hospitals are equally violating fire safety norms. Neither the SCB Medical nor the Capital Hospital have any proper fire fighting infrastructure with limited fire extinguishers and no trained personnel to use them. The old electrical circuits in the Capital Hospital can cause short circuits any moment and the situation could be worse than the SUM hospital fire accident Capital being the biggest state run medical facility in the capital city. In fact, the second largest state run hospital, the Municipal Hospital does not even have fire extinguishers.
When the situation at sought after health institutions is this grim, fire safety could be much neglected in the high rise apartments shooting up in the Twin City that are known for overlooking basic rules. The question remains how many eye opening tragedies will be enough!