It is time that all hospitals tighten loose ends, writes L. Srikrishna

The Wednesday night fire at the Apollo Speciality Hospitals here has come as a wake-up call to all major institutions, particularly hospitals – big or small – on the need to be on alert round-the-clock.

After noticing thick smoke billowing from the second floor, some staff – house keeping and paramedics - on duty immediately started shifting the in-patients from the ICCU wards to safe places. “We did not wait for the fire service personnel to arrive…as many patients were not only sick but also unconscious or sleeping after they had undergone surgeries. So instead of waiting for the fire teams, we got into the act,” young house keeping staff members told The Hindu on Friday.

More than the fire, it was the smoke that caused irritation to many persons in the vicinity. Fire service personnel and hospital staff braved the suffocating smoke and broke open the window panes to let fresh air in. “Until then breathing was difficult and some even complained of suffocation,” an employee said. The central air-conditioning system in the hospital came as a big hurdle to the rescue team, a fire officer said and added that the absence of ramp made the task more cumbersome in bringing down the patients.

A senior fire official said that fluctuation in power might have been a cause for the spark or short-circuit on that night. Investigation suggested that work was under way in the cardio-thoracic ICU and other nearby areas of the hospital during the day time. Moreover, the spirit used for injections could have led to the fire and this has to be discreetly probed.

Shifted back

The swift shifting of in-patients to different private hospitals in the city was done only to ensure that the treatment continued. However, the paramedical staff in other hospitals claimed that there were problems in getting access to the case sheets and medical records of the patients as they had no knowledge of the treatment.

Luckily, within about less than 24 hours, a majority of the in-patients were shifted back to Apollo campus, the house keeping staff said.

A government doctor admitted that a similar incident on some other premises might have had worse results and even casualty would have been high. Resumption of normal services too would have taken long.

However, on Thursday, a statement from Chief Executive Officer Satyanarayana Reddy said that normal functioning resumed at the Apollo Hospital and this reflected their commitment and capability. Senior doctors who were overseeing the operations on that unforgettable night were impressed and gained confidence with the presence of the top brass from the district administration and police departments.

But, the fire from Apollo Hospitals should be taken as a wake-up call by other institutions and a lesson to rectify mistakes and tighten loose ends, if any.

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