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Friday 16 December 2011

Hospital fails fire test

Hospital fails fire test

A fire drill on the Desun hospital premises in the presence of the audit team on Thursday. Picture by Tamaghna Banerjee
The four-member fire safety audit committee that visited Desun Hospital and Heart Institute on Thursday found combustible materials stored in the basement without adequate safety measures.
The team found the basement of the hospital, off the EM Bypass, in Kasba, divided into several compartments, where the authorities run a stationery store, a linen store and medical gas plants, along with several offices.
“The situation is just like that of AMRI Hospitals Dhakuria,” said Deba Priya Biswas, the additional director-general of fire services, who heads the team. “The basement is full of combustible materials and there is not even a sprinkler. There are fire alarms but they are not functioning. I have asked the authorities to immediately remove the stores from the basement.”
According to the National Building Code, combustible materials can’t be stored in a building’s basement. Several types of combustible materials, such as cardboard, paper, linen, wood and plastic were found in the Desun basement.
The basement also houses a pharmacy, an AC plant, a medical records room, a mortuary and offices and changing rooms for security guards and other employees.
“At least 60 employees work inside this death trap. Many employees even work on night shift in the basement. They don’t even have an emergency evacuation plan. If there is a fire, the employees will burn to death,” Biswas said.
During the inspection, the officials noted that though the hospital register mentions regular fire drills, employees who supposedly took part in them were struggling while trying to operate the water pump and pipes. One of the committee members, Anindya Chakraborty, had to take away a pipe from the employees and show them the proper way to use it.
The hospital, however, had sprinklers and fire alarms activated on the upper floors of the 10-storeyed building.
Fire services officers later said the hospital even had a no-objection certificate from their department.
But how did the hospital manage to get the NOC despite all the rule violations in the basement?
“We will have to check the papers and speak with those who had inspected the hospital to find out how it got the clearance. However, we have noted down the shortcomings and will mention them in our report to the state,” Biswas said.
“As the fire officers have objected, we will immediately shift the basement stores,” said T.K. Mukherjee, the deputy managing director of the hospital.
Biswas fumbled when asked why Nightingale hospital, which was found lacking even the most fire safety measures, had not yet been handed a notice. Fire minister Javed Ahmed Khan had said that the hospital would be asked to stop admitting patients till the measures were taken.
“My typist has been unwell for two days. We will serve them the notice next week,” Biswas said.

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