Odisha: SUM Hospital Fire; Inability to Act Against Illegality has become the Norm of the Day

Lessons have not been learnt after various fire tragedies in hospitals and cinema house that has taken lives of hundreds in the country. Latest being the most tragic incident which happened in Odisha state capital Bhubaneswar. SUM hospital located in the outskirts of the city was on fire which claimed 20 lives.

Unfortunately the fire started due to a short circuit on Monday evening at the dialysis ward and spread to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) located adjacent to the ward. Most unfortunate part of the incident is that all deaths occurred due to asphyxiation (suffocation). And post-mortem on the dead confirmed it. Eyewitness accounts claim that the deaths were due to negligence and delay in evacuation of the patients by the hospital authorities.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday night itself had ordered for an RDC enquiry and had rushed to the spot after the incident occurred but his office has maintained a stoic silence after ordering the enquiry. The Director General of Police (DGP) Fire Services, Binay Behera conducted a preliminary enquiry and submitted a report on Tuesday after which four arrests have been made so far in the incident. The report said to have cited lapses by hospital authorities. On the contrary the State health minister who should have be pro-active in dealing with the situation seems to have gone into hiding and it raises serious doubt in the minds of the ordinary citizen.

Though various lapses have been identified which resulted in the fire but the sense of urgency seems lacking of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in handling the issue.

While Manoj Nayak the chairman of the trust which owns the hospital remains evasive the action of the government and the police department seems to be under scrutiny for the slow progress over the incident.

Intellectuals have started questioning over why no action of criminal negligence has been taken against the trust chairman Nayak? Even reports in the media have surfaced that a relative of the health minister of Odisha is an employee of one of the educational institution run by the trust. The National Human Rights Commission is said to have issued notice to the Odisha government in this matter.

Since enquiry report has thrown light that the hospital was running without a fire safety no objection certificate (NOC), many eyebrows are being raised as to how a medical college and hospital continues to run which doesn’t fulfill basic safety norms.

Health, education, city planning and crime — inability to act against illegality has become the norm of the day in Odisha.


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