Delhi hospital fire: ‘Criminal neglect’, says L-G; orders ACB probe into registration of nursing homes; police to question owner's wife, staff : The Tribune India

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Delhi hospital fire: ‘Criminal neglect’, says L-G; orders ACB probe into registration of nursing homes; police to question owner's wife, staff

VK Saxena says the incident, which claimed the lives of 6 newborns, has brought out the ‘sheer mismanagement, criminal neglect and connivance of officials of the health department’ in granting and renewing registrations of nursing homes

Delhi hospital fire: ‘Criminal neglect’, says L-G; orders ACB probe into registration of nursing homes; police to question owner's wife, staff

Five oxygen cylinders exploded when a fire broke out at a neonatal hospital in the Vivek Vihar area of East Delhi. PTI



PTI

New Delhi, May 28

Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena on Tuesday ordered a comprehensive anti-corruption probe into the registration and regulatory management of all private nursing homes in the wake of the deadly neonatal hospital fire in Vivek Vihar, even as the police summoned the health facility owner's wife and seven others staff members for questioning.

Saxena said the incident, which claimed the lives of six newborns, has brought out the "sheer mismanagement, criminal neglect and connivance of officials of the health department" in granting and renewing registrations of nursing homes.

As part of its probe, Delhi Police have summoned Jagriti, the wife of hospital owner Dr Naveen Khichi. She is a dentist and also a co-owner of the facility.

Besides, seven other staff members, including nurses, who were on duty on Saturday night when the incident occurred, have been called for questioning.

Police sources said they had also asked two dozen hospital staff members to submit their degrees to ascertain whether they are qualified to work at a neonatal facility.

They said Naveen Khichi and Dr Aaksh, who have been arrested in the case, showed "remorse" during questioning.

While Khichi "accepted flouting norms", he claimed that he had to keep more beds as the number of patients arriving at the hospital was increasing and there was no objection from authorities, sources said.

"He (Khichi) told us that the number of admissions was not increased intentionally but he increased the beds when the demand increased over the last three years. He used to charge Rs 4,000-Rs 6,000 for a normal bed and up to Rs 8,000 for ventilators," a senior police officer said.

The police are likely to take Khichi to Jaipur on Wednesday as he had fled to the city after the incident, the officer said, adding that Aaksh during interrogation said that he helped in the rescue operation but fled the spot as he was scared of the people.

Investigators have already seized the mobile phones of the accused.

"We have taken their mobile phones to know about the call records and messages shared between them.

"We will also check if any message was later deleted," another senior police officer privy to the investigation said, adding, if need be, the mobile phones of other staff members will also be checked.

Five oxygen cylinders exploded when the fire broke out at the neonatal hospital in Vivek Vihar area of east Delhi that was operating without a licence and a fire department clearance, according to the Delhi Police FIR.

"During the investigation, we also found that some other children's hospitals used to refer newborns to this hospital on a high commission basis. A probe has been launched in this direction as well," a source said.

According to Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Surendra Choudhary, Naveen Khichi, who is 45 years old, is the owner of three more hospitals, one each in Punjabi Bagh, Faridabad, and Gurugram. "Teams will also visit these hospitals for detailed investigation."

The officer said they got to know that the fire broke out at 11 pm on Saturday, but the calls to the fire and police department were made only at 11.30 pm.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Saxena ordered a comprehensive Anti-Corruption Bureau probe into the registration and regulatory management of private nursing homes in the national capital.

In his communication to the Chief Secretary, Saxena said it was "heart-rending" that parents belonging to lower income groups "were being duped" by this nursing home which was operating without a valid registration.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj said Saxena had not spoken a word about the health secretary, who had been "missing" from action ever since the incident came to light. He even wrote to the Union Home Secretary over the matter.

Saxena, in his note, said the whole episode had brought out the "sheer mismanagement, criminal neglect and connivance of officials of the health department" in granting and renewing registrations of nursing homes.

"I have taken a very stern view of the matter. Though this is a transferred subject, in larger public interest, I am forced to step in, on account of the lack of seriousness on the part of authorities entrusted with these responsibilities."

He directed the ACB to undertake a comprehensive inquiry into the registration of nursing homes in the city to assess how many are functioning without valid registrations and whether those that have valid registrations are complying with prescribed norms.

In a video uploaded on X, Bharadwaj claimed he called the health secretary and messaged him a day after the blaze, but there was no response. He said he even sent a note to the secretary's residence but it was not received.

There was no immediate response from the health secretary.

"On Monday, I held a meeting and the health secretary was not present. I am surprised that for three days, the health secretary has been missing and he did not call or message.

"L-G sir did not say anything on this. The Health Department has a huge role to play in case of any major event like an earthquake, terrorist attack or fire. How is it possible that he can disappear? Someone told me he is on leave. But he did not inform me," Bharadwaj claimed.

Even when an officer is on leave, there is a link officer but in this case, even that person is not there, Bharadwaj claimed, adding that he had complained many times about the health secretary to the L-G but no action was taken against him.

On Monday, a city court allowed a Delhi Police plea seeking three days' custodial interrogation of the owner and an on-duty doctor. The bodies of six newborns, aged between one day and 20 days, were handed over to their families after post-mortem. 

#VK Saxena


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