Maharashtra govt suspends three, fires three others over Bhandara hospital fire that killed 10 infants

Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said that learning lessons from the 9 January incident, the state government will carry out a health audit of all the district hospitals in the state in the next 15 days

Press Trust of India January 21, 2021 22:40:58 IST
Maharashtra govt suspends three, fires three others over Bhandara hospital fire that killed 10 infants

A committee set up by the Maharashtra government following the fire incident in a hospital in Bhandara submitted its report late on Wednesday evening. PTI

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has suspended the Bhandara civil surgeon and two others and terminated the services of three staffers for "dereliction of duty" in connection with the January 9 district hospital fire that killed 10 infants, minister Rajesh Tope said on Thursday. The government also transferred the additional civil surgeon in this connection, he said.

Addressing reporters in Mumbai, the state health minister said that the action was taken after a committee set up by the government following the fire incident submitted its report late on Wednesday evening. "The action has been taken due to dereliction of duty on the part of the officials/staffers concerned," Tope said.

The Maharashtra government had on 9 January announced the formation of a six-member team headed by the director of the health department to probe the incident. Nagpur divisional commissioner Sanjeev Kumar led the investigation.

Tope said the government has suspended Bhandara district Civil Surgeon Dr Pramod Khandate and transferred Additional Civil Surgeon Dr Sunila Bade. Dr Archana Meshram, medical officer who was on-duty when the incident happened, and Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) in-charge nurse Jyoti Bharaskar have also been suspended for dereliction of duty, he said.

The services of SNCU pediatrician Sushil Ambade and contractual staff nurses Smita Sanjay Ambilduke and Shubhangi Sathavane have been terminated, the minister said.

"So, the services of two staff nurses and a paediatrician have been terminated. In-charge sister has been suspended. A medical officer has been suspended. The additional civil surgeon has been transferred and the civil surgeon has been suspended," Tope said.

The minister said his department has discussed the committee's report with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. He said that according to the report, there was a spark in the control panel of the radiant baby warmer at the hospital between 1 am and 1.30 am on 9 January.

"Due to that spark, the fire erupted... There was inflammable material (like cotton) near the warmer," Tope said.

"Some babies were on oxygen support. So, due to all these reasons, the fire spread. The (SNCU) room was closed. But the fire got extinguished since plastic material was there, leading to smoke which spread in a big way," he added.

The minister said that as per the forensic laboratory report three of the babies died due to burns and seven others due to suffocation caused by the smoke, he added.

Tope said that there could be two-three reasons which led to the spark. Voltage fluctuation in the control panel of the radiant baby warmer could be one of them. The minister noted that construction of the SNCU building was completed in 2015, that is, during the previous BJP-led regime in the state.

"...There was a need to check the fire safety measures before taking possession of the building. Its possession was taken and the building was inaugurated in a hurried manner," he alleged.

Tope said that learning lessons from the 9 January incident, the state government will carry out a health audit of all the district hospitals in the state in the next 15 days.

"A committee has been formed under Health Commissioner Dr Ramaswami for this purpose. Action plan will be worked out once that committee submits its report," the minister added.

Tope said letters have been sent to guardian ministers requesting them to make available funds through district development and planning council health institutes.

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