Fire in Delhi’s Childcare Centres  

Over the past two years, Delhi has recorded 66 incidents of hospital fires, with 30 occurring in 2022 and 36 in the preceding year, as reported by the Times of India. The most recent conflagration on May 25th resulted in the tragic deaths of seven infants at a private neonatal hospital in East Delhi’s Vivek Vihar.

In a shocking revelation, it was discovered that the hospital in question was functioning with an expired license. Additionally, the establishment was not staffed with qualified medical personnel and lacked the mandatory fire department clearance. This gross negligence has sparked intense scrutiny regarding the hospital’s compliance and regulatory supervision.

Confronted with an inaccessible front entrance, firefighters resorted to entering the building from the back, utilising a ladder provided by a local inhabitant. They made their way in through the windows and meticulously transferred the infants to bystanders, who promptly transported them to another medical facility. Despite their efforts to evacuate all 12 infants from the inferno, not all could be saved.

In previous occurrences, firefighters have been tasked with rescuing 20 infants from a neonatal hospital in Dwarka and evacuating over 100 patients from an endoscopy unit at AIIMS. Fire officials have highlighted the challenges involved in patient evacuation, particularly from pediatric hospitals. “Fire rescues in such settings differ from the norm; firefighters cannot employ ladders or carry individuals physically. This requires meticulous coordination between hospital staff and emergency responders to guarantee the safety of patients during evacuation, with a focus on ensuring well-being and reducing potential injuries,” stated Garg.

A number of hospitals in Delhi are not adequately equipped, lacking features such as sufficiently wide staircases. Hospitals seeking a no-objection certificate from the fire department are advised to construct staircases broad enough to allow for the smooth evacuation of patients on stretchers in the event of a rescue.

The compartmentation system in each hospital is designed to rapidly relocate patients during emergencies. This system entails segmenting a building into distinct areas using materials that resist fire. Moreover, proper channels for smoke evacuation are crucial to dissipate smoke accumulation during fires, thereby providing safer routes for evacuation.

A devastating fire at a private neonatal hospital in the Vivek Vihar area of East Delhi resulted in the tragic loss of seven newborns, with an additional five sustaining injuries. On Monday, authorities confirmed that post-mortem examinations had been conducted, and the bodies of five victims were released to their families. The remaining two will be handed over after the completion of autopsies.

The hospital in question was found to operate with an expired license and a deficiency of qualified medical staff. Moreover, it lacked the necessary fire department clearance. These oversights in safety and regulatory adherence have prompted grave concerns regarding the hospital’s operational and managerial practices.

An official reported that there were claims of one infant having passed away hours before the blaze, a detail pending confirmation through autopsy results. A forensic team and an inspector from the Electricity department are scheduled to inspect the site on Monday to ascertain the precise cause of the fire. The ongoing investigation seeks to identify any acts of negligence or malpractice that may have contributed to this calamitous incident.

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