The burning question: Are Bengaluru's govt hospitals fire-safe?

The burning question: Are Bengaluru

Submitted by Rashmi on Sat, 2016-03-26 12:14 Bengaluru: The recent fire at Kalaburagi District Government Hospital caused by an electrical short circuit has once again raised an old question: how safe are our government hospitals? Authorities concerned have asked staff at government hospitals coming under Medical Education Department and Department of Health and Family Welfare Services to be vigilant but is it as easy as it looks? A doctor in-charge of Intensive Neonatal Care Unit (INCU), Vanivilas Hospital on condition of anonymity, said the INCU was equipped with a central AC and the main electrical cables had been placed outside to prevent short circuit, “It is same with Vanivilas Hospital, which has 39 beds for Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit, and is equipped with centralized AC. At present we have total of 14 beds for babies born in Vanivilas and 10 beds for babies born outside Vanivilas. We have 15 beds for high dependency cases (babies below 1.5 kgs).” A spot check by this reporter found that more than ten fire extinguishers had not been refilled since 2014. Some of them did not even have date of filling or refilling date in both Vanivilas and Victoria Hospitals. But Dr Belvadi, Medical Superintendent, Vanivilas Hospital, seemed unperturbed over dodgy fire extinguishers. They might be old fire extinguishers. But we have installed new ones near the reception and central hall. If fire breaks out, we will control it with two fire extinguishers,” said Belvadi confidently. At Victoria Hospital, Dr H S Satish, Medical Superintendent, Victoria hospital, trotted out a familiar reply. "We have written about the fire extinguishers to the director of medical department. Once we get permission from the director, we can refill the extinguishers," said Satish. Dr Balaji Pai, incharge of Trauma Centre, Victoria Hospital, said they had “three types of extinguishers - powder, water and foam.” “We see that water is stored in tanks at the top of buildings and even in the ground floor, so that when such incidents happen then we can use water,” said Balaji. But Nagaraju, proprietor of  Krishna Enterprises, who manages fire extinguishers at Vanivilas and Victoria hospitals, said he had approached the authorities at both hospitals for timely refilling many times. "But the officials are yet to decide on it. It costs just Rs 2,000 for refilling but the officials are dragging their feet on it.” It is not just the fire that our government hospitals need to worry out. Basic facilities such as drinking water and a responsive front desk are also lacking. At the front office in Vanivilas hospital, this reporter found that the receiver of the phone had been kept aside. “How can a common man like me and you reach these hospitals during some emergency or labour pain,” asked Yasmin Ahmed. "The public water tap meant to provide drinking water is also not working. When asked about this to one of the nurses, she said the water was leaking hence they had disconnected pipes that supplied water to these taps," lamented Yasmin. Anjannamma, a mother of a patient admitted at Vanivilas, said, “The tap has not been working for six days now. Every time we have to drink water, we have to go to the food court. But it is open only during day time. It is difficult for old people like me. Such is the condition of the government hospital.” Irfan Khan, a father of a 20-day-old infant said, “I cannot spend lakhs of rupees at private hospitals as I belong to a BPL family. I visit government hospitals hoping to get better treatment but sometimes they disappointment me.”