mid-day editorial: A hospital's first duty is to keep patients safe

Jan 02, 2018, 06:08 IST | mid-day correspondent

There is little one can say when a place of rescue, refuge and rehabilitation becomes a danger zone itself. KEM Hospital - a sanctuary for victims of the Kamala Mills blaze - is a potential fire trap itself, without the requisite safety measures

There is little one can say when a place of rescue, refuge and rehabilitation becomes a danger zone itself. KEM Hospital - a sanctuary for victims of the Kamala Mills blaze - is a potential fire trap itself, without the requisite safety measures in place. A front-page report in this paper highlighted how KEM has blocked exits, expired fire extinguishers and a staff that is clueless about what to do if disaster were to strike.

More than 6,000 people visit KEM every day, and the hospital is a maze of passages and wards, with no clear directions to the exit. There is limited mobile service inside the complex, and many of the phone booths installed there are dysfunctional. Most fire extinguishers had expired in 2016. Emergency exits lead to places where staff dump unused stuff or dry their clothes. The list can go on.

Action against these lapses cannot come a day too early. Hospitals have caught fire earlier, maybe not this one, but we have seen how difficult it can get even for the able-bodied visitors and relatives to get out, let alone ailing patients. It is unthinkable that hospitals do not have basic fire safety measures. They should be fined heavily for obsolete equipment, so that they will be on their toes when it comes to updating their fire-fighting measures.

Mammoth hospitals, like KEM, are especially challenging to negotiate. It is even more important that they have clearly marked exit routes, and accessible fire extinguishers. More importantly, they must have personnel who are aware, alert and alive to crisis situations, and know how to guide people when it comes to an emergency. Strong punitive measures, sackings and demotions are one way to ensure that the top brass of these hospitals ensure that their premises are totally fire-compliant. Hospitals, heal thyself.

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