At a time when the impending roll out of coronavirus vaccine and India’s virus positivity rate dropped to 2.15pc giving a new hope to the citizens, the death of 10 newborns in a massive fire at the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) of Bhandara government general hospital again showed the grim reality of India’s rural medical infrastructure.
The fire broke out at around 2am and seven newborn admitted to the hospital were rescued while 10 children burnt alive. A doctor and a nurse were on duty at the time of the incident. The hospital nurse first noticed the smoke coming from the neonatal section and informed the hospital authorities. Fire brigade was also called to the hospital immediately that rescued seven babies who have been shifted to other ward.
But the question is that even if the fire broke out at the hospital why it was not extinguished immediately. It means that the hospital was not provided adequate fire safety measures which could have been put into action to douse the fire.
Most shocking news is that the fire safety audit of the 450-bed district civil hospital at Bhandara was not done since 2018. Moreover, the district administration had sent a proposal of over Rs 1.52 crore for purchasing fire safety equipment for the hospital on May 12 last year to the Joint Director (Health Services) which has not been addressed so far.
It was said that Vikas Madankar, a local RTI activist, who sought information from the district health department regarding the fire safety measure of the Bhandara Civil Hospital, was informed that fire hydrant, fire sprinklers, smoke alarm, fire escape ladder and fire escape routes, the basic fire safety equipments, which are mandatory in the such big hospital, are not available in the hospital. The department also informed that a proposal was sent to the government for consideration.
The ignorance of powers-that-be to the need of fire safety audit of the hospital and request for purchase of related equipment since May last year puts question mark on the government’s seriousness in maintaining the existing medical infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.
The seriousness of the tragedy could be gauged from the fact that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi reacted on the issue in their Tweets, respectively. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed grief over the tragic incident. “Heart-wrenching tragedy in Bhandara, Maharashtra, where we have lost precious young lives. My thoughts are with all the bereaved families. I hope the injured recover as early as possible,” Modi tweeted.
The Congress leader Rahul Gandhi termed the incident as unfortunate. “The unfortunate incident of fire at Bhandara District General Hospital in Maharashtra is extremely tragic,” he wrote on twitter. “My condolences to the families of the children who lost their lives,” Gandhi said and appealed to the Maharashtra Government to provide every possible assistance to the families of the injured and deceased.
The Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray spoke to health minister Rajesh Tope as well as district collector, Sandeep Kadam and superintendent of police of Bhandara district, Vasant Jadhav. He has also ordered a probe. Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased. Tope also described the tragedy as unfortunate and expressed his deepest condolences to the bereaved family member.
All the infants killed were between a month and three months old. Three to four babies were charred to death while the rest of the casualties happened as oxygen supply was cut. The exact cause of death would be ascertained after post mortem. However, the preliminary investigations suggest that short circuit caused the tragedy.
But the prima-facie also suggested that it was a man-made tragedy and the guilty must be dealt with firmly. The Leader of the Opposition, Devendra Fadnavis, who visited the hospital this afternoon demanded strict action against those responsible for the fire tragedy. Demanding a probe, he also asked the government to take strict action against the culprits.
M CharulataDisclaimer:-‘संपादकीय’ लिहिणारे हे ज्येष्ठ पत्रकार असून त्यांचे स्वतंत्र मत आहे. त्यांच्या लेखासोबत ‘महाराष्ट्र टुडे’चा कसलाही संबंध नाही. आम्ही केवळ त्यांचे मत मांडण्याचा प्रयत्न आमच्या माध्यमातून करत आहोत.