Another instance of fire safety lapses has been highlighted, this time in Karnataka. As a result, authorities are ordering the closure of scores of hospitals across the state.
A total of 156 hospitals in the state were issued final notices regarding violations of fire safety regulations. 81 of the hospitals failed to respond to these notices, including 51 in the state capital Bengaluru. “We will order closure of these hospitals by this week for non-compliance and file [first information reports] against them,” said Sunil Agarwal, the state Additional Director General of Police (Fire and Emergency Services).
This is far from the first instance where fire safety lapses have been flagged in Indian hospitals. Last month Health Issues India reported on a survey of fifteen hospitals in Odisha which found that just five were operating with the requisite fire safety certificates. Such violations come on the back of numerous incidents of hospital fires erupting, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Most infamously, a 2011 blaze at the Advanced Medical Research Institute (AMRI) in Kolkata killed 94 people.
The tragedy led to fire safety being scrutinised across India’s hospitals. In Karnataka, the findings were worrying: a mere three hospitals across the state were found to be compliant with fire safety regulations.
Fire safety audits of the state’s hospitals were ordered in 2016. in spite of this, it was reported in February this year that more than 200 hospitals in the state lacked fire safety clearances. This led to inspections being ordered, leading to initial notices being issued to 191 hospitals.
Of the hospitals that remain non-compliant, Agarwal criticised them for “not taking it seriously. They do not understand how vulnerable they are. Keeping the patients’ safety in mind, we will order closure of the most non-compliant hospitals first and then the rest.
“If major hospitals, with roaring business, are slack on fire safety compliance, what do we expect from the smaller ones. Probably, their sense of responsibility towards their patients and their families could make all the difference.”