INDIA. Mumbai: On November 6, Saturday, 11 Covid-19 patients died and six were injured in a fire that broke out in an intensive care unit (ICU) of the Ahmednagar District civic hospital. The Maharashtra Government suspended four persons, including the District Civil Surgeon, and terminated the services of two staff nurses on Monday.
On Saturday morning, around 10:30 am, a fire was sighted on the ceiling of the ICU. It soon spread to other areas and severely burned four women and seven men before staff managed to get them outside. According to the words of the eyewitnesses, the patients were convulsing, most likely due to the elements of the ceiling dripping with flames falling on them.
The Ahmednagar fire brigade rushed three fire tenders and water tankers. Fire brigade personnel brought the situation under control about 1:30 p.m.
In the meantime, six patients were put to safety, and the rest were rushed to a nearby hospital. Ten were declared “delivered dead,” one succumbed to injuries later, police said. Hospital staff said that as 15 of the patients were on ventilation or oxygen supply at the time of the fire, disconnecting them caused suffocation.
First information report (FIR)
Ministers of state who rushed to the hospital said hospital administration told them that an electrical shortcut caused the fire, but the Fire Brigade said the hospital ignored deficiencies it had pointed out during two fire audits in the past six years.
Three inquiries have been ordered: one by the District Collector, another by the District police superintendent, and the third one by Maharashtra Energy Minster Nitin Raut. Besides, an offense has been registered against an unknown person with Tophakhana Police station by the Assistant Police Inspector Zuber Ahmad Mujawar under section 304 A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The offense has been registered by the police since no citizen came forward to complain.
Deepak Pandey, Nashik Police Commissioner, an officer equivalent to a Police inspector or DCP has been deputed to conduct the investigation.
Disaster response funds released
Rajesh Tope, Maharashtra Minister of Public Health and Family Welfare, said that the state government and the state disaster response fund have announced help to the relatives of those killed in the Ahmednagar tragedy. They are compensating the next of the kin of the deceased with Rs 7 lakh. Checks were distributed in a representative manner.
Soon after the incident Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray spoke to the Ahmednagar Guardian Minister Hasan Mushrif and state Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte and directed them to ensure that the services in other wards are not affected, a CMO spokesman Anil Ashtaputre told the Transcontinental Times.
Video evidence of the events
Later, CCTV footage showed that the surviving patients were evacuated mainly by relatives and that hospital staff did not react quickly enough.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope also said in a tweet in Marathi that District Civil Surgeon Dr. Sunil Pokharna, Dr. Suresh Dhakne, Dr. Vishakha Shinde, and staff nurse Sapna Pathare have been suspended. He added that two other nurses, Asma Shaikh and Channa Aanant, have been sacked due to dereliction of duty.
The Ahmednagar ICU was opened last year. Ahmednagar District Collector Dr. Rajendra Bhosale told the Transcontinental Times that after a gas leak accident at a Nashik hospital a few months ago, the Ahmednagar hospital fire audit was carried out. The hospital expected the release of funds to set up the fire system, but those were delayed.
Opposition leader in the state legislature, Devendra Fadnavis, said the hospital did not have a fire safety certificate from the Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation. The sprinklers were not working properly and faulty electrical wiring was not replaced. He also added that this is nothing more than the callousness of the administration and the government is responsible for this mishap.
Among the 11 dead were:
- Sitaram Dagdu Jadhav (83) of Bakhtapur, Shevgaon
- Bhivaji Sadashiv Pawar (80) of Kinhi village in Parner
- Ramkisan Vitthal Harpude (70) of Maka village in Nevasa
- Kondabai Madhukar Kadam (70) of Kedgaon
- Chababi Ahmed Sayyad (65) of Shendi
- Satyabhama Shivaji Ghodchaure (65) of Telkudgaon in Nevasa
- Kadubal Gangadhar Khatik (65) of Patharvala in Nevasa
- Asrabai Govind Nangare (58) of Shevgaon
- Deepak Vishwanath Jagdale (37) of Sangamner
This is the fifth fire incident at a government-run hospital in Maharashtra since the start of the Covid pandemic and measures should be taken urgently.
Ten newborn babies died after a fire broke out in the Special Care Unit for Newborns of the Bhandara State Hospital in the Vidarbha region in January. Nine patients died at a Covid hospital set up in a shopping mall in Bhandup in northeast Mumbai in March. Fifteen Covid patients died in a fire that swept through the intensive care unit of the Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar, near Mumbai, in April. Similarly, 24 Covid patients who were on life support died after a leak in a medical oxygen tank disrupted the gas supply at Dr. Zakir Hussain in Nashik in northern Maharashtra in April this year.