KEM Hospital Fire: Who killed two-month-old baby Prince?

Updated: Nov 23, 2019, 07:32 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

More than two weeks after a fire broke out in KEM ICU, police and BMC have been unable to identify those responsible.

This image has been used for representational purposes only.
This image has been used for representational purposes only.

More than two weeks after a fire in KEM Hospital's ICU left a two-and-a-half-month-old baby with severe burns and an amputated arm, neither the police nor the civic body has been able to pinpoint anyone responsible for the incident. While the deceased boy's parents are demanding action against those to blame, the police and the BMC are pointing fingers at each other for the delay in identifying the guilty.

After the fire broke out on November 7, the Bhoiwada police registered an FIR under section 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life) of the Indian Penal Code and then added section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) on Friday. After the primary report indicated that the electrical nodes of the ECG cables had melted, additional municipal commissioner Ashwini Joshi ordered an inquiry on November 7 to determine whether the fire was caused by an electrical fault. 

No equipment analysis

The inquiry was headed by the Medical Director of civic hospitals, Dr RN Bharmal, who said that the report is expected to be submitted on Saturday. However, due to lack of access to the medical equipment from the ICU that was seized by the police after the incident, the inquiry report will not include its analysis. "The police are also doing their inquiry simultaneously and the equipment was in their possession. We did not get access to it. That is the reason for the delay since the equipment is important evidence. We will submit whatever we have in the report to the additional municipal commissioner," Dr Bharmal said.

Police waiting for BMC inquiry

Senior Police Inspector Vinod Kamble said that the FIR is still against an unknown person since they are waiting for the BMC's inquiry to fix responsibility. The Bhoiwada police said that as part of the investigation, a team of technicians have inspected the equipment and it has now been sent to the Forensic Laboratory in Kalina. "The BMC could have asked for access to the equipment for their inquiry. Once the BMC submits its report, we will be able to determine who is responsible and our observations on the equipment will be mentioned in the charge sheet," said Kamble. 

Father wants justice

Pannelal Rajbhar, the boy's father, had kept his hopes of Prince's recovery up until the minute he died. Now talks for compensation have been replaced with demands for justice. "People come to a hospital to get better. But here there was a fire in the hospital and no one is being held responsible for it. Someone needs to be punished for my son's death and now I am prepared to fight for it," said Rajbhar. He added that he will perform his son's last rites in Mumbai instead of travelling back to Varanasi.
 
From the start, it appears that the BMC has been reluctant to take punitive action against the hospital staff. During the talks of compensation, senior civic officials referred to the incident as an accident. The hospital administration too ruled it as a singular incident and hasn't taken any corrective steps. 

'Fire department wasn't informed'

The fire department was also not able to ascertain the cause of fire since its officials were not informed about it. "We learnt about the fire from the newspapers much after the incident. By the time fire officials visited the ICU about a day later, the equipment that had caught fire was removed. Since we weren't able to inspect it, we didn't know what caused the fire and we could not give any recommendations either," said a fire official, adding that the hospital didn't inform either the fire department or the disaster management department, when ideally they should have done so.

Despite repeated attempts to speak to the dean of KEM Hospital, Dr Hemant Deshmukh, regarding the fire official's allegation of the department not being informed, he was unavailable for comment.

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