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Devbrat Patnaik

Cuttack: In the wake of a fire mishap in Sadguru hospital in Cuttack last September, Odisha fire services department had ordered an inspection of fire safety arrangements at all Covid facilities in the State while it was further decided to conduct emergency drill every fortnight. Two months later, the Union Home Secretary too shot letters to all States and UTs stressing upon the need to ensure compliance of fire safety norms and meet the minimum requirements for a reasonable degree of safety from fire emergencies in hospitals.

But, are hospitals implementing the laid-down guidelines? And is the State fire services department serious about the enforcement measures? Here's a reality check.

On Monday (February 1) at around 12:30 PM, a major fire broke out in the top floor of Sun Hospital, a multi-speciality private health centre at the Biju Patnaik Chhak in Tulsipur area of Cuttack. Though seven fire fighting teams were rushed to the spot, the intensity of the flames was so high that a Bronto Skylift and other equipment were deployed to douse the blaze. The whole dousing operation took almost two hours.

But by the time the fire was brought under control, the whole of the fifth floor comprising an office, Digi set room, computer room and a canteen, was completely devastated. The documents had reduced to ashes. Fortunately, there has been no loss of life or injury to patients admitted to the hospital.

Biswajit Sahu, coordinator of Sun Hospital said, "The fifth floor, the office area where all equipment are stored, caught fire. The server, electrical management, IT, financial management departments suffered massive destruction."

Built almost 20 years back in the heart of the silver city, the hospital building is situated right in front of the office of Chief Fire Officer, but the very fact that it had been operating without fire licence or fire safety certificate, has come as a shocker for many.

"As many as 11 patients were undergoing treatment at the hospital. They have been safely evacuated and shifted to other hospitals in the city. Apart from them, there were around 49 staff at the hospital, all of them have been rescued. There are no reports of any casualty," said CMC Commissioner Ananya Das.

Following the incident, Cuttack Collector Bhabani Shankar Chayani ordered a probe into the fire mishap to ascertain the cause of the blaze.

Chief Fire Officer of Cuttack, Maheswar Swain said, "Seven fire fighting units were pressed into service. We also took the help of a hydraulic platform to carry out operations. We will investigate to find the reason behind the fire mishap. The hospital lacks a fire safety certificate, we have not granted any fire licence to the hospital."

Back in October 2016, a massive fire outbreak due to a suspected electric short circuit at SUM hospital in Bhubaneswar had claimed more than 25 lives, injured many and ravaged several areas of the medical facility.

In September 2020, when the coronavirus infection was dominant in most parts of the State, another fire mishap was witnessed at Sadguru Covid hospital at Jagatpur area in Cuttack. Though no casualties were reported, there were some 127 Covid patients at the facility who were shifted to other hospitals in the city. Upon an investigation, it was revealed that Sadguru hospital too did not possess a fire safety certificate.

These incidents have raised serious questions over the in-house fire safety measures at the hospitals. The State fire services directorate has also come under the scanner state for allegedly allowing a large number of hospitals to function without proper fire safety clearance. The only solution to the never-ending issue could be a re-audit of all fire safety norms at all hospitals of Odisha.

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