Families and relatives of eight patients admitted in the ICU ward for COVID-19 treatment, who were killed in a fire in a private hospital in Ahmedabad, have alleged they were kept in the dark by the authorities for long when they sought information about patients rushing to the hospital.
The fire broke out in the wee hours of August 6, leaving the fourth floor of the 50-bed Shrey Hospital, where the ICU ward is located, completely charred.
The fire that was reported at around 3.30 a.m is suspected to have been caused due to a short circuit in ICU ward. All eight patients reportedly died of asphyxiation before the fire fighters could reach the fourth floor.
Both chief minister Vijay Rupani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (former chief minister of Gujarat) have announced compensation for the deceased and a committee has been formed to investigate into the matter. A total of 40 patients have been transferred to SVP Hospital, Ahmedabad.
On August 6 morning, the next of kin of the patients gathered around the hospital complaining of apathy on the part of the hospital authorities. While some relatives claimed they were informed only at around 7 a.m, some others said they were not informed at all and rushed to the hospital after watching television news.
“They called us multiple times in the course of treatment asking to pay bills or buy medicines. Why couldn’t they call to inform us that the patient is dead?” said the next of kin and friends of 42-year-old Arif Mansuri, who was one of the eight victims who died.
Ayesha Tirmizi, who was admitted to Shrey Hospital 10 days ago after she was diagnosed of being COVID positive, was recovering and was to be shifted out of the ICU on August 6.
“She had recovered from corona but was still critical due to other health complications. When the fire broke out, she died of suffocation as oxygen supply stopped owing to the fire. Every hospital staff member ran to save their own lives,” said Suhel Tirmizi, her husband and a High Court lawyer who fought some cases related to the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat.
Following the incident, Bharat Mahant, director of the hospital and one hospital staff member were detained by the local police for interrogation and released the same day.
The private Shrey Hospital, which is 22 years old, is located in a lane of a residential area of Navrangpura, Ahmedabad, and allegedly has no fire clearance. Hospitals need to renew a No Objection Certificates (NOC) every year from the fire department. Reportedly, Shrey Hospital hadn’t renewed their fire NOC since April this year.
Mahant has, however, denied allegations of not having an updated fire NOC or hospital staff running away leaving the patients.
On Friday, Ravindra Patel, DCP of Zone one, Ahmedabad, said in a press conference: “The hospital had applied for renewal of fire NOC in March this year but the fire department could not clear it owing to the pandemic.”
Notably, Mahant, had joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the presence of Rupani in Rajkot last year. Mahant was among some Congress leaders who had joined the BJP just before Modi began his campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.
Mahant, son of a former minister and former Congress chief, had contested the elections against BJP from Kutiyana Assembly constituency in Porbandar in 2002, but had lost. He also made headlines in 2015 when a nursing student of Shrey Institute of Nursing and Allied Science accused him of molestation. The victim had moved an application in Ghatlodia police station and had later withdrawn it for reasons unknown.
Hospital Fires in Ahmedabad
Six incidents of fire have been reported in Ahmedabad in private and government hospitals in the past 16 months.
On June 29, this year a minor fire broke out in the air- conditioning system in the operation theatre of Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research. However, there no injuries or casualties were reported.
On July 30, 2019, a fire in the electricity metre in Samarpan Hospital in Thalthej in the first floor of a three-storey building led to panic in the whole building. Although no casualty or injury was reported, the fire department said the incident could have turned into a major disaster as oxygen cylinders were kept near the location of fire.
On July 2, last year, a fire broke out on third floor of VS hospital due to a short circuit. A major incident of fire happened on May 13, 2019 at Apple Super Speciality Children Hospital located in a commercial building in the city when the hospitals illegal terrace kitchen caught fire.
A fire broke in the Swine Flu ward of the Civil Hospital on April 7, 2019, but no injuries or casualties were reported.
The fire at Shrey is the first incident of a hospital fire in the country where COVID patients have died. After the incident, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has ordered a fire safety audit of 72 COVID hospitals in city.