At least 14 Covid-19 patients in the intensive care unit died after a fire broke out in the air conditioning unit of Vijay Vallabh hospital in Virar, north of Mumbai, at 3 am on Friday. However, the authorities rushed out 21 other patients from the hospital after the fire.
The fire started in the air conditioning unit of the hospital’s ICU. There were 17 patients in the ICU at that time. “The incident occurred after 3 am and within 5 mins Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation fire brigade reached the spot. The firefighters put out the fire within minutes, but 14 Covid-19 patients had died by then,” said deputy commissioner Kishore Gavas.
Ganesh Tandel 42, a resident of Nalasopara who lost his sister Shama Matre 48, a homemaker, was waiting for hours to get a death certificate, as her body was kept at Vartak Nagar mortuary following the mishap.
“The hospital did not even inform us. We got to know at 7 am after watching news. When I reached here I saw the authorities speaking with police and politicians. But no one cared to answer our questions. Nine members of my family tested positive and seven were admitted here. Six recovered, and my sister was being treated here for the past 45 days,” he said.
“She had fully recovered and we were happy she would be discharged soon but we never imagined this. We cannot express our sorrow in words. Some 10 to 12 days ago there was an oxygen problem. There was no oxygen for 4 hours. My sister still held on. Strict action has to be taken against hospital authorities,” Tandel wept.
By morning, 21 patients were moved to nearby hospitals.
Rs 5 lakh compensation announced
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has announced Rs 5 lakh each to the family members of the patients who died and Rs 1 lakh each to the critically injured patients.
As per a statement from the CM’s office, after learning about the fire and the death of 14 Covid-19 patients, the Chief Minister has spoken to the concerned officials and instructed them to give priority to extinguish the fire completely and ensure that the treatment of other patients continues unobstructed.
“The cause of the fire should be investigated properly. The administration has been instructed to see whether the appropriate fire safety measures were taken in the hospital and conduct a proper inquiry in it,” said Thackeray, in the statement.
90 patients in hospital
“There was a total of 90 patients in a four-story hospital building. While the first floor is a general ward, the second floor has an ICU facility and 17 patients were admitted at the time of the incident. Rest two floors are functional as special wards,” said an official from Maharashtra state fire service department.
Sadanand Date, police commissioner, Mira-Bhayandar Vasai-Virar (MBVV) said, “I have asked our crime branch officials to investigate the matter.” When asked if an FIR is being registered, Date said, “We will take appropriate action based on our findings.”
The fire was doused by 3.45 am but cooling operations continue. Former CM Devendra Fadnavis said: One more devastating incident. Deeply pained to know about the loss of lives in the Virar Covid Hospital ICU fire. My deepest condolences to bereaved families.”