Mumbai: The Maha Vikas Aghadi government has ordered a detailed inquiry into the fire at the Bhandara district hospital that led to the deaths of 10 infants, and an immediate audit of all neonatal units in hospitals across the state.
The incident took place at about 1.30 am in the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, when a suspected short circuit caused a fire in the Sick Neonatal Care Unit ward of the hospital.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s office tweeted saying that he has directed Health Minister Rajesh Tope to conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident.
“The CM has also spoken with the district collector and the police superintendent and directed them to conduct an inquiry into the incident,” the tweet said.
त्यांनी ही घटना कळताच आरोग्य मंत्री राजेश टोपे यांच्याशी बोलून या संपूर्ण घटनेची तात्काळ चौकशी करण्याचे निर्देश दिले आहेत. मुख्यमंत्री हे जिल्हाधिकारी तसेच पोलिस अधीक्षक यांच्याशी देखील बोलले असून त्यांनाही तपासाचे निर्देश देण्यात आले आहेत.
— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) January 9, 2021
The opposition BJP has meanwhile started targeting the government over the incident, with a party MLA calling it a murder due to the state’s negligence.
Three infants died of fire, seven due to suffocation
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said, in a video statement, that of the 10 infants, three died due to burns and the others due to suffocation from the thick smoke.
He added that the hospital staff were able to successfully evacuate one of the two adjacent wards, saving seven infants.
“There was an absolutely heart wrenching tragedy at 1.30 am in the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) ward. There was a fire the prima facie reason for which seems to be a short circuit, and it led to a thick farm smoke throughout the ward,” Tope said. “The ward boy and nurse on duty immediately opened all the doors and windows and tried to use fire extinguishers and douse the fire.”
The health minister further said the state government will take strict action against all those found guilty during the inquiry and has also promised to devise a protocol to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.
“We have ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident. We have handed over the bodies in ambulances to the families and sent them for a funeral,” Tope said. “The CM has also directed to extend an aid of Rs five lakh for every family from the CM relief fund.”
Audit of all neonatal care units
Deputy CM Ajit Pawar said the state government has issued orders for an immediate audit of all neonatal care units in hospitals across Maharashtra.
He added that he has directed the Bhandara district administration to ensure the hospital continues to function with proper precautions.
“I have had a discussion with Rajesh Tope and the district administration about continuing the services of the hospital with adequate precautions and directed them to continue the medical care of other children in the hospital under the guidance of experts,” Pawar tweeted.
आरोग्यमंत्री @rajeshtope11 आणि जिल्हा प्रशासनाशी चर्चा करुन रुग्णालयाची सेवा योग्य खबरदारी घेऊन पूर्ववत सुरु ठेवण्याचे तसंच अन्य बालकांवरील उपचार तज्ज्ञांच्या देखरेखीखाली करण्याचे निर्देश दिले आहेत.
— Ajit Pawar (@AjitPawarSpeaks) January 9, 2021
The BJP in Maharashtra not only called for an inquiry into the incident, but also blamed the MVA government, comprising the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress, for negligence, leading to the deaths.
“It is not an accident. It is murder. The state government’s negligence is responsible for the incident,” BJP MLA Ram Kadam said.
Referring to the confusion in the state’s healthcare system during the Covid-19 pandemic, Kadam added, “Even prior to this, several people have died in Maharashtra’s hospitals due to lack of beds, lack of hospitals.”
Maharashtra opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis in his initial reaction refrained from entering a blame game, but said the state government should conduct a proper inquiry.
“Fire incident at the Bhandara District Hospital,where about 10 children lost lives is very painful & disturbing,” Fadnavis tweeted. “My deep condolences to the families who suffered such irreparable loss. This incident should be properly investigated & strict action be taken against the culprits.”
Fire incident at the Bhandara District Hospital,where about 10 children lost lives is very painful & disturbing.
My deep condolences to the families who suffered such irreparable loss.
This incident should be properly investigated & strict action be taken against the culprits.
— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) January 9, 2021