EXIGENCY PROTOCOLS AND TEXT BOOK BASICS FLOUTED AS 15 DIE IN VASAI HOSPITAL BLAZE
“Nurses, ward boys and other staff at the Virar hospital, where 15 patients died after a fire broke out in the intensive care unit (ICU), had tried to fight the fire using extinguishers for about 15 minutes, fire officials said, adding that hospital employees had delayed calling up the fire brigade.
According to records, the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation’s fire brigade received a call from Vijay Vallabh Hospital at 3.13 am. The fire brigade vehicle arrived at the hospital at 3.18 am. The fire was extinguished at 3.45 am.” (As reported by ToI)
In the middle of the Corona pandemic that has hit India with force unprecedented, we are still not spared of fire related horror stories that only add to the miseries faced by the common man today. 15 people died in a horrific fire accident in Vijay Vallabh Covid hospital in Virar on the outskirts of Urban upscale Mumbai on 23rd April. The ICU of the 90-bed hospital was gutted and 15 Covid patients succumbed violently in the tragic accident. The police custody of the two doctors of the Vijay Vallabh Hospital who were arrested after the incident was extended till Wednesday by a Vasai court.
The air conditioner it seems, had malfunctioned in the ICU ward. A press release by the Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC) stated that the fire had broken out at 3:13 am “due to a spark in the air-conditioning, damaging the entire facility and leading to thick smoke and darkness”. Chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Dilip Shah (56) and the chief administrative officer (CAO) Dr Shailesh Pathak (47) were arrested on Sunday and remanded to police custody till Monday by the Vasai court. They have been booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder
But the 15 tragic deaths could still have been avoided if certain copybook basics had been in place. To the credit of the hospital, they had a recent fire audit and that must be a good thing. It is however, another matter whether the fire clearance had been obtained strictly in accordance with existing guidelines. But the part where the administration of the hospital failed miserably was in training its staff on fire safety and exigency protocols, which also is as important as obtaining the clearance.
It seems that the staff was unable to use fire extinguishers properly and wasted valuable time in struggling with them rather than calling in the Fire Brigade. When they did call in the specialists, it was already too late. Again, it is another matter whether the fire extinguishers were in good working order at the crucial time or not. As per the rules, the fire brigade needed to be alerted immediately when the fire began while using the extinguishers simultaneously. This was not done. Only when the staff realized that their extinguisher efforts were failing and the fire was gaining that they alerted the Fire Brigade. This lapse caused many unnecessary deaths which could have been avoided.