Mumbai: A day after the heart-wrenching tragedy in which 10 newborns died in the fire at the Bhandara district general hospital, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday warned that even though the health infrastructure was under pressure due to the present coronavirus pandemic, it could not become an excuse for safety and security lapses in hospitals. Thackeray said the state government would not compromise on fire safety, which was paramount.
Thackeray, who visited the hospital and met the families of infants, announced that a 6-member committee headed by the Nagpur divisional commissioner would conduct a thorough probe into the incident and submit a report to the government within a month. The committee would include fire safety experts and former Mumbai Fire Brigade Chief PS Rahangdale. The CM clarified that the government would not spare the guilty.
‘’Last year, our health infrastructure was under a lot of stress due to Covid-19. A probe will determine if there was negligence. Investigation will be held under the chairmanship of the divisional commissioner. I have directed fire audits of all government hospitals,’’ he said.
"Words fail me," he said, referring to the tragedy. “It was heart-wrenching. The inquiry committee will probe whether there were any demands for fire safety equipment and were these fulfilled or not. The committee will examine whether there was negligence by the health machinery because of the Covid-19 crisis,’’ he added.
A leading fire safety expert, who did not want to be named, told The Free Press Journal, “The committee will inquire whether the fire was caused by negligence or a system error. Further, the committee will assess the fire management system and its functioning and will recommend the strengthening of fire management at the Bhandara hospital.’’
He said the committee was also likely to examine if there had been laxity in carrying out upgradation of the fire management system. As reported by The Free Press Journal, the state public works department had submitted a proposal worth Rs 1.52 crore in 2019-20 for the purpose. However, the funds were not used.