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AIIMS fire in Delhi points to safety needs

AIIMS fire concept.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. Image credit: Dr.saptarshi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A fire has been reported at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi. Thankfully, no casualties have been reported as a result of the AIIMS fire, though the incident does remind us of the importance of fire safety within our healthcare facilities. 

The Delhi Fire Department reported that the AIIMS fire broke out at 05.00 a.m. in a storeroom of the facility. A distress call at 05.15 a.m. was made, after which fire brigades comprising seven tenders were dispatched to the scene. Described as minor, the fire has since been brought under control with no injuries and loss of life reported. The cause of the fire has yet to be ascertained. An investigation is being conducted to discover how it happened. 

This is not the first time a fire has occurred at AIIMS. One broke out in June on the hospital’s ninth floor. Whilst, fortunately, no casualties were reported on that occasion either, it did necessitate up to 26 fire engines working for two hours to contain it. Fire safety is a problem when it comes to India’s hospitals – including AIIMS. When a fire broke out at the facility in 2019, as Health Issues India reported at the time, “the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) said that some buildings at the AIIMS campus – including the building where the fire broke out – were operating without the required no-objection certificate (NOC) from the DFS. A first incident report (FIR) has been filed by the Delhi Police against individuals who, at the time of writing, have yet to be named – suggestive of criminal wrongdoing such as negligence.” 

Furthermore, we noted that “the fire at AIIMS is yet another reminder that India’s hospitals regularly fail when it comes to fire safety. In Delhi alone, of the 1,478 registered hospitals, health sub-centres, maternity homes, and nursing homes, a mere 103 operate with a NOC from the DFS. The fire at AIIMS served as an especially high-profile example of this. 

“The absence of fatalities is a mercy, but it should not engender complacency. Multiple hospital fires have proven deadly in the past. Unless improvements are made to fire safety standards at hospitals where lapses are regularly flagged, there is no reason to be optimistic that this will not be the case during the next blaze.” 

Heightened vigilance is needed to ensure fire safety compliance within India’s healthcare facilities. The AIIMS fire of this morning claimed no lives – but other hospital fires have and will continue to do so unless we register such instances as depressingly, needlessly common, learn from them, and act accordingly. 

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