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Following infant death, hospitals in the firing line in Hyderabad over fire safety

On Monday, a fire broke out in Shine Children’s Hospital in the L.B. Nagar area of Hyderabad. Tragically, a four-month-old infant was killed in the blaze whilst four other patients were injured. The incident has led to concerns being expressed about fire safety norms conformity in Hyderabad’s hospitals. 

The fire broke out on the hospital’s third floor, in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) following a short circuit. Patients were evacuated, but the life of one of the infants could not be saved due to severe burns and suffocation. What has emerged since has been damning: a preliminary inquiry revealed rampant violation of fire safety norms. 

“The hospital did not have an exit for the fire engine, they had just a single entry and exit, which is against the rules,” the District Medical Health Officer told The News Minute. “Apart from that, the hospital had permission to have only twenty beds, but against the norms they increased the bed capacity to fifty. They [the staff] did not have any orientation on how to act during such a crisis. Periodically, mock drills should be carried out by such institutions. In this case, no such practice was followed.” 

The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) director of enforcement vigilance disaster management Viswajit Kampati ordered the hospital to turn over its non-objection certificate from the fire department. Meanwhile, the hospital’s managing director Sunil Kumar Reddy and others have been booked under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code for criminal negligence resulting in death, following a complaint by constable D. Naresh, the father of the infant who lost his life. “The complainant alleged that he had earlier cautioned about the short circuit in NICU to Sunil Kumar Reddy, MD of Shine Hospital, but he failed to take precautionary measures,” reported The Times of India

Now, the GMHC is probing other hospitals to see if they meet fire safety norms and the results so far have not been promising. Notices have been issued to 350 hospitals for violation of norms, with the GMHC scrutinising a total of 1,500 hospitals. Kampati has warned that the closure of facilities violating the rules will follow if improvements are not made. “Even government hospitals will not be spared,” he warned. One GMHC official reported that “some top hospitals are in the offenders’ list.” 

India’s hospitals are severely lacking when it comes to fire safety. The tragedy at Shine Hospital is a reminder of this. With a probe ongoing into fire safety throughout the Telangana capital’s healthcare facilities, the conversation surrounding fire safety in India’s hospitals needs to be sustained. Tragedies should not have to happen for hospitals to be made to achieve safety standards. 

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