Testing Patients: At Jogeshwari hospital, 2 of 3 lifts out of order, fire exit locked

Mumbai: Patients visiting the 13-storeyed Hindu Hridaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray (HBT) Trauma Care Centre, Jogeshwari, are finding their patience being tested as they wait 20-25 minutes for a lift to transport them to the centre's upper floors for treatment. Two of the three lifts are currently out of order and so the only functional lift must be shared with the hospital staff.

“The lifts have been out of order for the last two-three months. We have complained to the hospital administration about the matter but no action has been taken as yet. Only one lift is working and that is also used by hospital staff, patients and their relatives. Everyone is forced to wait for at least 20-25 minutes,” said Sunil Sharma, a patient's relative.

As if this ordeal were not enough, the hospital administration has also locked the entrance to the staircase near the operation theatre (OT) on the fourth floor. So even those patients willing to use the stairs must now wait 15-20 minutes for the only working lift to arrive.

“The hospital administration cannot risk the lives of patients and fire safety in a hospital, especially in the OT, cannot be ignored. It cannot closed the fire exit, as during emergencies, people panic and start running, which could lead to a stampede. At such a time, how will the hospital staff get time to find the keys and open the door,” asks Dr Ravikant Singh, a health activist.

The fire department also confirmed that accessible fire exits in a 13-storey hospital are compulsory and violations could lead to the cancellation of the hospital’s licence. “Under fire safety rules, all hospitals need to have fire exits. In fact, depending on it, the hospitals get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department. So far, we have not received any complaints but we will now look into this,” said a senior officer from the Mumbai fire department.

The Jogeshwari hospital, located on the Western-Express Highway, was inaugurated in 2013. It has a 304-bed capacity and most of its patients are victims of road accidents. Activists have pointed out safety violations and said the hospital is risking hundreds of lives by violating fire safety norms.

On December 18, 2018, fire broke out at the Employees' State Insurance Corporation’s (ESIC) Hospital in Marol, Andheri, in an illegal canteen located in the building on the ground floor. Eleven people, including a five-month-old baby were killed in the fire. A subsequent audit revealed there were no fire exits in the 325-bed hospital building.

Botched eye surgeries

On January 4, seven patients who underwent eye surgery at the HBT hospital contracted infection, which resulted in two patients losing vision in one eye each while the other five suffered varying degrees of vision loss in their operated eyes. Following the incident, former civic chief Ajoy Mehta had terminated the services of three doctors, including the operating surgeon and transferred the medical superintendent of the hospital to head the gynaecology department of Nair Hospital.

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