Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, November 18
The district has 800 private hospitals and is known as Asia’s biggest medicare hub, but fire safety arrangements at most healthcare facilities have not been checked for ages altogether.
Besides, majority of hospitals in Jalandhar district don’t have designated fire safety officers despite the 2020 Supreme Court guidelines calling for a nodal officer for each establishment.
The exact number of hospitals in the district, which have obtained NOCs, will be clear after we receive lists. Instructions have been issued to hospitals to get fire safety audits conducted. Jaswant Singh, Assistant Divisional Fire Officer, Jalandhar
Keeping in view the recent fire incidents at medical establishments in various parts of the country, directions for fire safety audits have been issued to hospitals recently. A nodal officer has also instructed hospitals to review their fire safety arrangements. Ghashyam Thori, Deputy Commissioner, Jalandhar
Lack of space, including that for parking vehicles, is a problem faced by most hospitals, but many have found shortcut solutions for the same.
At some establishments, basement parking runs side by side with labs. Sensitive wards are housed in many commericalised basements closed from all sides.
A few hospitals renovated recently have latest, state-of-the-art facilities and sprinklers for dousing flames. Many hospitals have dangerous towering buildings with some floors marked by a network of heavy-duty cables and wires for complicated medical equipment.
Even hospitals with proper fire safety equipment don’t hold regular mock drills or undertake maintenance. This increases chances of equipment malfunctioning when the need actually arises.
Sources in the Fire and Health Departments told The Tribune that politicians and key officials at times called when big hospitals were denied NOCs (No Objection Certificates). “The ‘sifarish culture’ is a regular for a hospital to obtain an NOC despite inadequate fire fighting arrangements,” the sources added.
Many hospitals also have PROs, security personnel or even clerks or accountants doubling up as fire safety personnel. Most of them are untrained in fire safety protocol.
The two city private hospitals, Vedanta Hospital and Sigma Hospital, which The Tribune visited, had basic fire safety arrangements.
The basement parking area of the Vedanta Hospital, which also houses a lab, had three oxygen cylinders while all floors had two or more cylinders barring the ground floor OPD, which had only one.
Besides, an oxygen cylinder is stored outside the Vedanta Hospital gallery. There is one fire extinguisher in the oxygen storage area of the hospital. Meanwhile, the upper floors of the hospital have two or more fire extinguishers. The hospital, however, has no fire hydrants.
Meanwhile, at Sigma Hospital, which also specialises in paediatrics and childcare, has fire hydrants hoses on every floor. Fire extinguishing cylinders at the hospital were found to be valid till this month (November). Almost all cylinders, except a few, bore expiry date as November 2021. Barring the congested hospital ground floor, which also houses the neo-natal care unit, has a network of pipes, wires etc in some sections. The upper two floors of the hospital are better ventilated.
The Vedanta Hospital authorities also shared the NOC with The Tribune, which was renewed recently.
The Assistant Divisional Fire Officer, Jalandhar, Jaswant Singh said, “The exact number of hospitals in the district, which have obtained NOCs, will be clear after we receive lists. Instructions have been issued to hospitals to get fire safety audits conducted.”
“Only 15 to 20 per cent big hospitals in Jalandhar have latest sprinkler systems. Rest of the hospitals have only basic fire safety arrangements. However, most hospitals are fit to tackle fire exigencies. Basements are also being used in many hospitals in which sprinkler systems have been installed,” he added.
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