Bhubaneswar: Four staff members of a private medical hospital where a massive fire broke out killing
20 people were suspended on Tuesday even as over 100 patients, mostly from the gutted Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and dialysis unit, were shifted to other hospitals.
While 20 deaths were officially confirmed, authorities of different hospitals where the injured were shifted last night put the toll at 22.
As many as 106 patients, who were shifted from the private SUM Hospital following the blaze last night, are now undergoing treatment at different hospitals in Bhubaneswar, Health Secretary Arti Ahuja said, amid reports that some of them are in critical condition. Most of them were from the ICU and the dialysis unit, an official said.
Ahuja, who visited the hospital, said that 14 and five bodies were received at the Capital Hospital and AMRI Hospital respectively, while a spokesman of AIIMS-Bhubaneswar said that one death was reported at their facility.
Most of the deaths in the four-storey hospital took place due to suffocation and asphyxiation, a senior official said, adding that majority of the patients at the ICU were on ventilator support.
The authorities of the Siksha O Anusandhan University (SOU), which runs the Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital, suspended four of its staff members and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the victims' families. Those suspended were one fire officer, two engineers and one hospital manager, SOU vice-chancellor Amit Banerjee told reporters, rejecting allegations that there was any irregularity in the management of the hospital.
"We have suspended four officials as part of the hospital's bid to maintain transparency. Tomorrow no one
should accuse that evidence was tampered with," he said.
Ahuja said the ICU and dialysis unit of the hospital have been sealed to ensure proper investigation. The blaze was suspected to have been triggered by an electric short-circuit in the dialysis ward on the first floor which spread to the ICU. The fire rapidly spread to other areas on the same floor of the hospital building.
Some patients have also been shifted to the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack for treatment.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited some of the hospitals, including AIIMS and AMRI Hospital, to inquire about the condition of the patients undergoing treatment.
State Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said the priority was to provide 'proper' treatment to the patients from the fire-hit hospital who have been shifted.
The state government has already ordered a high-level probe by the director, Medical Education and Training, into the incident. In addition, a probe by the revenue divisional commissioner (RDC) has also been ordered, an official said.
Rejecting allegation that the high casualty was due to wrong evacuation process, Banerjee said, "We have followed the best of the evacuation protocol. Had we not followed it the casualty would have been more."
Banerjee claimed that the fire safety parameters were checked properly only three weeks ago and there was no lacuna on the part of the hospital authorities in the maintenance of the electrical equipment.
"There were nine to ten people under ventilator support," he said, adding that most of the people died due to asphyxia.
Meanwhile, Baina Behera, a resident of Mangalpur village under Pipili police station area in Puri district, said he was really lucky to have escaped the thick smoke and fire that engulfed the hospital while about a dozen others waited till being evacuated.
"The fire broke out when I was undergoing dialysis. I asked the doctor to stop it. I broke the window pane and went down with the help of a water pipe. A technician also followed me and came down from the first floor dialysis unit by using the same water pipe," Behera said.
Behera's brother Babuli, who was also present at the dialysis unit during the fire mishap, jumped from the first floor and escaped.
The nurse at the dialysis unit, however, said she continued to remain till all the people were evacuated safely. "I along with other nurses at the nearby medicine ICU ensured that all the patients are shifted. It was smoke and fire everywhere," the shocked nurse said, adding that she too required to overcome the trauma.
Badrinath Nanda, whose father (Pradumnya nanda-73) has been shifted to the Capital Hospital after the fire incident, said he was asked by the hospital staff to take away the patient. "How could I have taken my father out alone. My father has been suffering from paralysis. It took about one hour to shift my father," he said.
Many complained that more patients would have survived had there been prompt and proper evacuation.
Tribeni Nayak (65), wife of Raghunath Nayak of Sastri Nagar in Ganjam district, was about to be discharged from the hospital on Tuesday. "We were supposed to take back her on Tuesday as her condition had improved. But, we are now told to take her body," said one of her relatives.
Anil Patra of Khurda, whose mother Rajani Patra (46) died in the fire, blamed it on the mismanagement in evacuation. "The hospital staff and security personnel who were supposed to ensure a smooth evacuation had no coordination leading to a chaotic situation. This delayed the process. As a result, people died," Anil said.