INDIA. Mumbai: While the cause of the fire that broke out in Ahmednagar District Hospital in Maharashtra on November 6, claiming the lives of 12 COVID-19 patients, remains ascertained, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has blamed the hospital administration for the unfortunate incident. IMA said that a PG medical student and nurses were made a scapegoat in the mishap.
After the mishap, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Energy Minister Nitin Raut, and Nashik Police Commissioner Deepak Pandey ordered inquiries.
A seven-member committee headed by Divisional Commissioner Radhakrishna Ghame submitted its report to the CM last week. Meanwhile, the report of the state electrical inspector which could throw the light on the cause of the fire is still awaited.
Ahmednagar hospital tragedy
Initially, Dr. Vishakha Shinde (27), a second-year post-graduate (PG) student was suspended along with Ahmednagar Civil Surgeon Dr. Sunil Pokharna, Medical Officer Dr. Sureh Dhakne, and staff nurse Sapna Pathare, by Health Minister Rajesh Tope. Besides two other Staff nurses, Asma Shaikh and Channa Aanant who were on the contract were sacked.
Having realized the mistake that an intern pursuing PG studies has been suspended, the health department revoked Dr. Shinde’s suspension within three days.
However, based on the police report regarding the missing staff, Dr. Shinde and nurses Sapna Pathare, Asma Shaikh, and Channa Anant were arrested under section 304 (culpable homicide) and 304 A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code on November 9.
They were released on a surety and personal bond of Rs 25,000 each on November 19, by Ahmednagar district judge M R Natu.
Dr. Shinde’s agony
Dr. Shinde has now resumed her duties but a scar that she was arrested for no-fault, worries her since it will jeopardize her career.
Speaking to the Transcontinental Times, she said, “Our case was misrepresented. My duty was on the ground floor as well as the second floor where COVID-19 patients were admitted. Nearly 7 people were in different wards. As such to say that we were missing is wrong. The police based their report only on some portion of the CCTV footage.”
“I am not aware whether the equipment to douse the fire was available or not. We are not trained in fire-fighting, we concentrate on providing medicare to the patients,” she added.
Dr. Shinde’s father Rajendra Popat Shinde (a retired school teacher) said that the incident had put tremendous mental pressure on his daughter.
“She is a medical student pursuing her PG in orthopedics. She was doing her duty in the Covid ward and she is not a Govt medical officer. As such to book her under sections 304 IPC is wrong. She is yet to complete her studies and establish herself in her profession and settle in life. If she takes any drastic life-threatening action in depression, who will be responsible for that?”
Talking about the allegations put on her daughter he said, “When I asked DYSP Sandip Mitke, why such sections were leveled against my daughter ? he said that they had orders from the “top”. I hope that the government will make amends. Or will be left with only option to approach the Bombay High Court to quash the FIR.”
Opinions on Dr. Shinde’s case
Talking about the tragic incident, Adv. Yohan Makasare said, “Dr. Vishakha Shinde is a fee-paying student, who had given Rs 1.50 lakh for her post-graduate studies. She does not qualify to be a government medical officer and as such can be held responsible for the fire mishap.
Advocate Sulaiman Bhimani said, “The FIR can be squashed under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 by the High Court. The provision reads as “Nothing in this code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the high court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this code or to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice”.
Indian Medical Association (Ahmednagar) Secretary Dr. Sachin Vahadane said, “The doctors’ are not supposed to look after electrical wiring and gadgets. The fire broke out from the ceiling of the ICU. Those who look after technical matters should answer this.”
“The doctors and even nurses cannot be held responsible for fire safety. The 500 bedded hospital lacks trained staff to attend to such emergencies. Most of the jobs are handled by the peons, who do not have proper uniforms,” he added.
Vahadane said that the hospital staff doesn’t have masks and other accessories to deal with fire or any other mishap.
“Every time someone from Public Works Department is summoned to attend to such emergencies. The hospital should have dedicated staff to attend to emergencies round the clock. No one has questioned why no action was taken against anyone from the administrative department of the hospital. We are going to make our best efforts to remove the charges leveled under section 304 IPC. When asked whether the hospital has any responsible officer to attend to such emergencies,” he asserted.