AMRI Hospital Incident Has Not Taught Any Lesson

Watch AMRI Hospital fire

AMRI hospital catastrophe

AMRI  hospital  catastrophe
AMRI hospital catastrophe | Source

Accident Was Preventable

Poor Maintenance of Hospitals

Many hospitals in India are maintained poorly. Rules and regulations are not adhered to. On December 9th last year, 90 people lost their lives in the AMRI hospital in Kolkata city. This incident has shaken the conscience of India. Many private hospitals claim to give highly efficient treatment to the public. But in real fact, they are run on commercial motives and medical service is relegated to the background. AMRI Hospital charged huge fees from the patients who belonged to the poor and middle class but did not provide them any safety during their hospital stay.

Accident Was Preventable

But the fire accident could have been prevented. AMRI Hospital disaster demonstrated to the world that lots of innocent lives would be lost if bribery eats the basic fabric in government departments. There was no fire extinguishing tools in AMRI Hospital. There was no infrastructure to tackle the possibility of fire spreading around in the hospital. This fact was known to the fire extinguishing department already. Inspite of all these serious defects, the government renewed the license of AMRI Hospital on August 29th last year. Probably the hospital authorities had bribed the state government officials to obtain the license.

Only Bribery Matters

During the Left front regime, corruption had eaten the basic fabric of the government administration. After the fire disaster, a reporter asked the head of the fire extinguishing department how license was continuously granted to AMRI Hospital inspite of its poor infrastructure. For this question, the chief replied that during renewal of license, he was admitted in the hospital for treatment of fracture and that the license was granted by another officer. This officer had granted license to the hospital with the advice to rectify the defects within three months. The fire department sanctions permission to hospitals and factories without checking up whether rules and regulations had been adhered to. Only bribery matters to them.

License Will Be Renewed If Bribery Is Given

Even if the defects are not rectified, license will be renewed next year with a condition to rectify the defects within three months. The bribery may increase. Now that this matter has come to the knowledge of the public and the media and also there is a change of government in West Bengal, license for the current year for AMRI Hospital may not be renewed unless the hospital authorities rectify all the defects.

Wastes Were Dumped In the Hospital Basement

There were two floors in the basement of the AMRI Hospital building. When the building was constructed, the hospital authorities stated that these two floors would be used for car parking. But in one of the floors, an office with tables and chairs was functioning and in the other, waste items like broken beds, used pillows, mattresses, electrical wires and used gas cylinders were dumped. Water was not filled in the fire extinguishing pumps. Alarm bells announcing the fire were not working. Trained people in fire fighting were not appointed in the hospital. Fire fighting tools were kept in the midst of other waste items. These details were revealed by the fire department itself. Inspite of all these deficiencies, license was granted to the hospital because of bribery factor.

Alarm Bells Did Not Work

Fire started in the basement of AMRI Hospital on December 9th. Fire spread to 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors through AC ducts. People were in deep slumber at that time. Fire and suffocation killed 90 people. Among those killed were the patients, their relatives and employees of the hospital. More than hundred people were wounded. At 2.15 A.M, there was smoke and fire in all the three floors. Alarm bells did not work. This was because the hospital management had already switched them off. Water sprayers were not working either. A lady sweeper spotted the fire and informed about this to her family members who were residing in the nearby hut.

Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital in Delhi is a very efficient hospital

Loknayak  Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital in Delhi is a very efficient hospital
Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital in Delhi is a very efficient hospital | Source

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AMRI Hospital Incident Has Not Taught Any Lesson

A markeramri hospital -
A M R I Hospital, Block A, New Alipore, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
[get directions]

AMRI Hospital Incident Has Not Taught Any Lesson

There Are Efficient Private Hospitals Also

No Oxygen Cylinders

At 2.35 AM, many fire fighting equipments in the hospital were not working. Nobody in the hospital knew how to operate them. There were no mechanics knowing about AC ducts also. At 2.45 AM, around 50 people came to the hospital from the nearby slum to assist the hospital authorities in fire fighting. But they were not permitted inside the hospital by the authorities. At 3.00 AM, overcoming obstacles, these 50 people went inside the hospital and saved some patients. At 4.08, the police in Lal Bazaar got the information about the fire and they informed the fire department. At 4.15 AM, many hospital employees ran away for their lives. At 4.30 AM, two fire fighting vehicles arrived at the hospital. But there were no oxygen cylinders that have to be worn by the fire fighters.

Mamata Banerjee’s Visit

At 7 AM, two ladders arrived. At 7.30 AM, five oxygen cylinders also arrived. At 8 AM, after a gap of 5 hours and 45 minutes after the fire started, fire fighting commenced at last. At 9.50 AM, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the hospital. At 10.00 AM, water was sprayed on the fire. At 2 PM, for the first time, fire fighters entered the basement of the hospital. At 3.27 PM, the owners of the AMRI Hospital surrendered themselves to the police. They were arrested on the spot.

Inaction by Hospital Authorities

It should be noted that the fire fighters arrived only after a lapse of two hours 15 minutes after the fire started. Even then they did not come with proper equipments. This clearly proves how much damage bribery can do to the society. This incident also disproves the popularly held notion that private hospitals are maintained efficiently compared to the government hospitals. One of the top officers in AMRI Hospital Sajjith Hussain informed about the fire to his higher authority Preetha Banerjee but not to the fire department or police. The reason for his inaction was that the hospital authorities had strictly asked the employees not to call the fire fighters or police under any circumstances without informing them.

Fire Fighting Department Did Not Answer

What was the reason for the hospital authorities’ framing of this draconian rule? If a fire starts and police arrives, they will know about the poor infrastructure which may put the hospital authorities in trouble. So the authorities thought of quenching any fire themselves without calling the police and fire fighters. Preetha Banerjee also gave shocking news that when the news about fire was informed to the fire fighting department at around 4 AM, nobody took the telephone to answer. But this cannot wash off the crime of the hospital authorities not to inform the police or fire fighting department immediately when the fire broke out at 2.15 AM.

There Are Efficient Private Hospitals Also

National Accreditation Board of Hospitals had warned beforehand that AMRI Hospital lacked adequate infrastructure to safely bring the patients out in case of an emergency like fire or earthquake. When a big fire spread in Loknayak Japaprakash Narayan Hospital in Delhi in the eighties, four hundred patients were safely evacuated outside within forty five minutes because of the availability of sufficient infrastructural facilities in the hospital. But such facilities are not available in any of the nearly eighty private hospitals in Kolkata.

Criminal Prosecution

West Bengal government has already arrested and launched criminal prosecution against the directors of AMRI Hospital. But the government should reform the fire fighting department also. Fire started and spread in the hospital only because of lot of wastes like cotton dumped in the basement floors. This is a lesson for other hospitals also. But even after six months after the incident, there seems to be little action on the front. It seems everybody has coolly forgotten the AMRI Hospital episode and bribery is ruling the roost in the license regime.


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