Tinderbox hospitals

Maharashtra hospitals seem to be ticking tinderboxes. One tragic incident can be condoned as an accident, but not a series of tragedies striking hospitals in quick succession. They smack of callous disregard for the maintenance of infrastructure crucial to the treatment and management of patients who repose trust in the facility for their care, nay lives. Unfortunately, Maharashtra finds itself in the dock with regard to the efficacy and preparedness of its health facilities, both public and private. Four heartbreaking events over the past four months expose how poorly equipped its medical institutions are. Coming amid the huge Covid surge that the state is struggling to cope with, the disaster hurts more.

Fifteen Covid-19 patients were charred to death after a fire broke out in the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Palghar district on Friday. Two days earlier, a glitch in the oxygen supply system at a Nashik hospital proved fatal for 22 Covid patients. Nine lives — again Covid-infected — were snuffed out in the last week of March when a blaze broke out in a Covid-designated hospital in Mumbai. That it took 40 hours to douse the flames laid bare the shortage of fire extinguishers. Happening at a mall that housed the hospital, the mishap raised doubts about the standard of hospitals hurriedly improvised to deal with the pandemic since last year. Then, in the January 10 mind-numbing inferno, 10 infants succumbed in the burning ICU of the Bhandara Government Hospital in Vidarbha.

These instances show that human lives continue to be cheap in our country. The uproar after each such accident evokes the standard compensation of a few lakh rupees to the victims’ kin. The leaders parrot words of condolence and seek to quell the din with promises of a probe into the incident and penalty to the guilty. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had called for a fire audit of all government hospitals in the state in January. What is the progress in this direction? Sadly, no one knows. Or, sadder, we know: not much.

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