Odisha fire: 4 hospital officials including Superintendent arrested, 100 patients shifted elsewhere

Bhubaneswar: Four officials, including the Superintendent, of a private hospital were arrested and four employees suspended on Tuesday, a day after a massive blaze there claimed 20 lives and left many injured.

Meanwhile, over 100 patients, mostly from the ravaged ICU and dialysis units were shifted elsewhere for treatment.

While 20 deaths were officially confirmed, authorities of different hospitals where the injured were shifted last night put the toll at 22 after the devastating fire broke out in the Sum Hospital.

The arrests were made shortly after Odisha government filed two FIRs alleging negligence in conduct and safety
against Sum Hospital.

Two separate FIRs were lodged by Joint Director of the Directorate of Medical Education and Training (DMET) Umakanta Satpathy and Fire Officer (Central Circle) B B Das with Khandagiri police station.

Those arrested were Superintendent of Sum Hospital, Pushpraj Samantsinghar, Electrical Maintenance Engineer Amulya Sahu, Fire Safety Officer Santosh Das and Junior Electrical Engineer Malay Sahu, Commissioner of Police Y B Khurania said.

Khurania said the four officials were arrested on the basis of preliminary inquiry report of the fire officer and the FIR filed by Fire Services department at Khandagiri police station where a case in this regard has been registered.

The four were booked under Sections 304 (culpahbel homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire and combustible materials) and 34 (common intent) of the IPC, the police Commissioner said.

Meanwhile, Director General of Fire Service, Binay Behera submitted a report to the state government on the fire that ravaged parts of the private hospital last night in which 20 people died and many were injured.

Behera in his report has mentioned that the fire safety norms as per the 2013 guidelines were not followed by the hospital authorities, an official said.

A senior police official said more arrests in the case cannot be ruled out.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Health and Family Welfare Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said the Joint Director of DMET also lodged FIR against the hospital for alleged violation of provisions under Odisha Clinic and Establishment Act, 1992.

DMET Prof P C Mohapatra, who has been leading an inquiry team, this afternoon visited the hospital and spoke to different people, including the staff. He said the guilty would definitely be punished.

"DMET had earlier issued guidelines to hospitals and clinical establishments across the state asking them to put in place fire safety measures. Licenses of those found flouting these guidelines will be cancelled," he said.

The authorities of Siksha 'O' Anusandhan (SOA) University, which runs the Institute of Medical Sciences and Sum Hospital, suspended four staff members and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the victims' familes.

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."

As many as 106 patients, who were shifted from Sum Hospital following the blaze last night, are now undergoing treatment at different hospitals in the city, 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 said the ICU and dialysis unit of the hospital have been sealed to ensure a 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 nearby ICU.

Governor S C Jamir and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited some of the hospitals, including AIIMS and AMRI Hospital here, to inquire about the condition of the patients undergoing treatment there.

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.

Health Secretary Ahuja, who visited the hospitals this morning, said that 14 and 5 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 the majority of those who died were at the ICU of Sum Hospital and were on ventilator support.

Some patients have also been shifted to the SCB Medical College and Hospital at Cuttack for treatment.

Health Minister Nayak said the priority was to provide proper treatment to the patients from the fire-hit hospital who have been shifted.

Meanwhile, opposition parties, including Congress and BJP held the state government and Sum Hospital authorities responsible for the fire tragedy.

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Prasad Harichandan said the state government has not learnt anything from the AMRI hospital (Kolkata) fire accident of 2011 in which 89 people were killed.

"Besides the hospital authorities, I will say both Chief minister and Health minister are responsible for the tragedy. The state government must declare Rs 25 lakh compensation and a job to kin of each of the deceased," Harichandan said.

Harichandan alleged that the mishap was caused due to total negligence by the state government.

"A judicial probe must be ordered into the incident and the culprits be booked," he said.

CPI National Secretary D Raja, who visited several health institutions, where patients evacuated from Sum Hospital were undergoing treatment, said, "A neutral probe is required to find out the lapses in the fire safety management in the hospital. An amount of Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia is not adequate. Our party has demanded that the amount be increased to Rs 20 lakh."

Supporters and activists of CPI(M) also staged a demonstration here demanding resignation of Nayak as the health minister.

BJP leader and Union Minister Jual Oram also blamed the state government and the hospital authorities for the tragedy.

A BJP delegation led by its senior leader Bijay Mohapatra visited the Sum Hospital fire site and other hospitals, where evacuated patients were being treated.

BJP state vice-president Pruthiwraj Harichandan said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was accountable for the non-performance of the health department. He also hit out at the state Health minister.

"The health minister should perform or step down," he said.

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Updated Date: Oct 19, 2016 08:30:12 IST

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