City hospitals ready to tackle fire hazards

MiD DAY visited prominent hospitals to inspect the readiness, and discovered that most of them were following guidelines specified by the civic body

In the wake of a major fire that killed more than 73 people, mostly patients, at Advanced Medical Research Institute (AMRI), a 161-bed private hospital in Kolkata, MiD DAY visited major hospitals in the city to gauge their preparedness in the event of a blaze on their premises. 

 According to initial reports, the fire at AMRI started in the basement of the hospital where hazardous materials were being stored.

According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) norms, hospital should follow the fire safety norms as prescribed for any commercial building. Apart from fire fighting equipment, hospitals should have a suffice number of fire extinguishers, smoke detectors depending on the size and capacity of beds in the hospital and sprinklers installed. The hospital should also have two water tanks on its premises -- one on the roof and one in the basement. Besides having two stairways, an open space, enough for two fire brigades to come and go, is required.

BMC's Chief Fire Officer, Mujawar Hassan, said, "Last year we visited various hospitals in the city and had served notices to a few of them who did not comply to our fire and safety norms. Most of them obliged to our notice and 90 per cent of the hospitals are now found following the fire safety norms."

Mayor Shraddha Jadhav said, "It's an unfortunate incident and this should be a learning lesson to all hospitals. I am writing a letter to the civic chief asking him to provide security guards basic fire fighting training at all BMC hospitals until the fire brigade arrives. In case of a fire in a hospital, evacuating patients is most important as they are already ill."

Acting in response to the Kolkata hospital fire, hospital authorities, both private and civic, in Mumbai are on a war footing. They were busy trying to get their fire safety equipment in place.

Bhatia hospital, Tardeo
This hospital had just two fire extinguishers -- placed on the ground floor and one in the basement. The hospital's basement houses cabins of the administrative staff with a single stairway leading to them. There is no fire exit in the basement region. There were no sprinklers or smoke detectors in the hospital. The hospital had two separate stairways. Being one of the oldest hospitals in the city it enjoys a full-bed capacity at any given time. Situated on the main road, the hospital has a small compound that is brimming with parked cars at any given time.

When contacted, Dr P D Potdar, medical superintendent of the hospital, said, "Today we conducted a meeting and we are soon going to appoint an agency that will work out fire safety needs of our hospital. Ours is an old hospital and we are upgrading from the conventional equipment."

KEM hospital, Parel

Civic-run KEM Hospital is one of the busiest hospitals in the city, with a bed capacity of 1,300. The new building on its premises has only one staircase in contrast to the fire safety norm that requires two separate stairways. Though fire extinguishers are visible, sprinklers and smoke detectors are not detectable
in the corridors of the hospital.

Dr Sanjay Oak, Dean of KEM Hospital, was not available for comment.

Lilavati hospital, Bandra
When this reporter visited Lilavati Hospital's out patient department (OPD), which is located on the ground floor, there were four fire extinguishers placed near the doors. The ceiling of the hospital had sprinklers in place.

Dr Sheela Pershad, medical superintendent, Lilavati Hospital & Research Centre, said, "All safety norms are being followed. We have fire exits marked with illuminated signs, our stairways and the refugee floor have appropriate fire fighting equipment and we also have a separate water tank to douse the fire. We do not store combustible items on our premises."

"We have more than 200 sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire alarms. Fire drills are conducted once a month," she added.

Cumballa Hill hospital & heart institute, Kemps Corner
Situated in south Mumbai, the hospital known for its cardiology department has fire extinguishers placed at strategic locations. The hospital, however, does not have smoke detectors in the entire hospital. Only a few rooms have it.

Dr Gaurav Gupta, administrative head, Cumballa Hill Hospital & Heart Institute, said, "Soon as we heard about the incident in Kolkata, we conducted an internal meeting and we have decided to have mock fire drills twice a year. Our basement has a medical record department and we don't house any combustible materials there. At present we have 30 extinguishers in the hospital."

GT hospital, Crawford Market
The state-run GT Hospital, a part of JJ group of hospitals with a bed capacity of 521, has no fire safety equipment in place.

The hospital does not have any fire extinguishers or smoke detectors. During the last two terror attacks, GT Hospital had treated maximum patients. The hospital doctors say that they have never carried out a mock fire drill.

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