City's hospitals wake up to fire alarm

BMC to hold fire safety audits in civic and private hospitals starting Monday, even as patients and relatives express deep concern over fire equipment and preparedness of hospitals in Mumbai

Learning a lesson from last Friday's disaster at South Kolkata's AMRI hospital that killed 90 people, including 85 patients, the Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Corporation (BMC) has started making detailed plans for inspection of fire safety conditions of city hospitals.

Rescue workers evacuate a woman after a fire engulfed AMRI hospital in Kolkata on December 9. More than 90 people were killed, 85 of whom were patients. Pic/ AFP

The BMC will kick off the fire safety audits on Monday and plans to impose norms in hospitals that are not following it already.

"We are planning to conduct an audit at all the hospitals in the city starting with the civic hospitals first. Regular audits and inspections are done at hospitals, but this one would involve getting a comprehensive review," said Additional Municipal Commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar.

The city has three major civic run hospitals and 16 peripheral hospitals, which will be inspected first.

Private hospitals will follow

"KEM underwent a fire safety check a few months ago. The fire safety condition of Nair Hospital has improved after a minor fire recently broke out there.
We will now also audit government hospitals," Mhaiskar said. Municipal Commissioner Subodh Kumar will also hold a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the hospital audits, she added.

The Fire Brigade conducts fire audits for both, high-rise establishments and municipal buildings, but there is no specific action plan for private hospitals, nursing homes and clinics that do not fall under the high-rise category.

"They (private hospitals) follow the norms but if any glitches are found, they are asked to rectify them. Also, fire fighting equipment is not maintained at most buildings in the city, including hospitals," a fire official said.

On being asked about audits in private hospitals Mhaiskar said, "Even private hospitals house a large number of patients. They will also be inspected and a report will be prepared."

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