The charred remains of the newborn care unit of Bhandara district hospital in which 10 babies died.
The charred remains of the newborn care unit of Bhandara district hospital in which 10 babies died.
PTI Photo

Mumbai: The devil is in the details or, in this case, swooped down when the 'angels of mercy' stepped out of the sick newborn care ward in the Bhandara district general hospital on January 9. The Forensic Science Laboratory report has revealed that the 10 newborns who perished in fire at the hospital that day suffocated for 21 long minutes because of the criminal negligence of the two nurses who were supposed to be on duty, but were not. Had the nurses been there, they could have safely evacuated the infants before fire engulfed the ward, the report revealed.

The babies' cries went unheeded as the nurses were not around to rush to their assistance. The department of public health has admitted that the tragedy exposed the administration’s lethargy, its apathy and dereliction of duty, especially by two nurses.

The findings of the Forensic Science Laboratory in Kalina, Mumbai, further states that the fire, caused by a short circuit, engulfed the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNUC) and babies suffocated to death for want of oxygen. The laboratory also relied on the CCTV footage, which showed that the two nurses were absent at the SNUC, during their duty hours.

Health Minister Rajesh Tope has confirmed that the laxity and irresponsible behaviour of the two nurses in performing their duties had caused the disaster. He said the administration would file a case against the two nurses. As reported by The Free Press Journal, the state government had terminated the services of nurses Smita Sanjay Ambil Duke and Shubhangi Sathawane on January 21, based on the Nagpur divisional commissioner’s report on the incident. With Tope’s announcement, the two nurses will face penal action, after a first-information report will be filed against them.

Tope said on the fateful day, because of a short circuit, there were sparks for 12 minutes, culminating in a fire in the ward. However, it went unnoticed as the two nurses were not present on the job.

The state government has already suspended district civil surgeon Dr Pramod Khandate, along with the on-duty medical officer of the hospital, Dr Archana Meshram.

Additional Civil Surgeon Dr Sunila Bade has been transferred to a non-executive post while Paediatrician Dr Sushil Ambade has been terminated.

The Nagpur Divisional Commissioner Sanjay Kumar, had, in his report, observed that the hospital administration’s lapses led to the fire which occurred between 1 and 1.30am on January 9.

The report had held civil surgeon Khandate and additional civil surgeon Bade responsible for negligence and the hospital suffering from lack of maintenance. The report stated that on duty nurses AmbilDuke and Sathavane were not at their nursing station at time of the fire.

Sister in charge Jyoti Bharaskar, who was suspended, was held responsible for not ensuring that the nurses were present at the nursing station. Medical officer Meshram and paediatrician Ambade have been held responsible for not being present at the SNCU at the time of the incident though they were on duty there.

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Free Press Journal