Only 27% of 166 government hospitals in Karnataka complete fire safety audits despite prodding by PM

File photo of State-run Wenlock hospital in Mangaluru, Karnataka.

File photo of State-run Wenlock hospital in Mangaluru, Karnataka. | Photo Credit: For representation only

Over two weeks after the Health Department directed 166 district and taluk hospitals to conduct fire safety audits, not more than 44 healthcare facilities (27%) have completed the exercise. Following the tardy progress, the May 21 deadline to submit the audit reports has now been extended till the end of the month.

At the video-conference with Chief Ministers of all States on April 27, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that all States should conduct fire safety audits in hospitals as fire accidents had increased due to summer heat.

Following which, State Health Commissioner Randeep D. issued an order on May 7 directing 16 district and 150 taluk hospitals to conduct the audits and receive an NOC from the State Fire and Emergency Services Department. The hospitals had been asked to submit reports by May 21. 

Subsequently, the Health Department approved ₹82 lakh for the fire audits of 166 hospitals (at ₹50,000 each hospital) under the National Health Mission (NHM) and the funds were released on May 18.

Audit complete in five districts

So far, only 44 of the 166 hospitals (27%) have got the fire audit done. As per district-wise data, the exercise has been completed in all identified hospitals in five districts - Bengaluru Rural (four hospitals), Chikkamagaluru (7), Dakshina Kannada (5), Davangere (6), and Udupi (3). 

With none of the identified hospitals having started the exercise, implementation is zero in 14 districts, including Bengaluru Urban. While one of the two hospitals in Kodagu has completed the audit, three out of seven hospitals in Hassan and four out of 10 hospitals in Uttara Kannada also have a fire safety NOC now. The progress is ranging between 11% and 43% in the remaining districts.

Procedural delays 

Mr. Randeep attributed the tardy progress of audits in the hospitals to procedural delays.  “Funds have been released to the 166 hospitals and the DHOs have been asked to facilitate the audit of hospitals in their districts by the end of this month. So far, 44 hospitals have completed the audits,” he said.

“The recent incidents of fire accidents in hospitals have reinforced the need for compliance with fire safety measures in hospitals across the State,” he added.

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What hospitals should have

C.N. Manjunath, director of the State-run Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, said lack of fire safety puts the lives of immobile patients at risk. 

“Hospitals have a multitude of flammable materials, each with different degrees of combustibility, each reacting differently to heat and fire. It is mandatory for hospitals to have smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, a fire escape route plan, fire exit LED signages with two hours power backup, fluorescent arrow directions and adequate space for fire tenders to operate,” he said.

Besides, all electrical and electronic installations need to be sequestered and fire-proofed. “Evacuation passages should be clutter-free and over 70% of employees should be trained in fire fighting. Fire hydrants with adequate water storage (minimum three lakh litres at any given time) and fire escape route trolleys should be available,” Dr. Manjunath added.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2022 10:53:01 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/only-27-of-166-govt-hospitals-in-state-complete-fire-safety-audits/article65461107.ece