Monthly Archives: December 2011

The AMRI Death Saga: A horror too real to be forgotten

No.

I really, really,  dont know how to start writing on this incident. And, it is not due to the fact that sheer apathy has numbed my mind. It is so shocking and mind-numbing that the words just remain stuck in my mind, refusing to come out as I go over and over in my mind, the atrocities committed by human beings. Especially, those in charge of taking care of and saving precious human lives.

Yes, I am talking about the Ghastly, Massacre (yes, massacre) which occured  day before yesterday. The Black Murderous Hospital Death trap or The AMRI Death Saga in Kolkata where, as per the latest report 93 helpless patients have succumbed to the fire which ravaged the hospital.

The AMRI hospital is run by some well known industrialists and reportedly charges exorbitant fees.

The fire which was detected as early as 300 am by the relatives of some of the patients in the ICU, was reported late  to the authorities. But owing to the negligence, sheer callousness and apathy of the authorities in charge and in spite of the pleadings and prayers of the relatives, was allowed to spread, till it became uncontrollable, causing smoke to suffocate many of the patients to death. And as per reports, by the time the fire-brigades arrived,   there was nothing that could be done except to  look for survivors and bodies.

What makes it more heart-rending and appalling are the following facts IN THE COURSE OF THE FIRE:

1. As per several relatives of patients who tragically passed away, nobody listened to their repeated warnings of smoke. The hospital staff brushed it away saying the ICU was well equipped to handle such incidents

2. Instead of alerting the fire authorities, the hospital guards tried to control the smoke themselves, wasted 90 mins, precious time on this. which could have been used fruitfully had they alerted the requisite authorities.

As per TOI, it seems that the hospital punished guards who violated their rules. In a previous fire incident, the guard was punitively dealt with for having called in the fire services promptly. This may have scared the guards in this case.

As a result, the fire went out of control, smoke spread, CO monoxide spread through the ventilation. The ICU patients, because of lack of ventilation and AC, suffocated to death with no way to escape, suffered the worst  fate. Hydrogen Sulfide also reported amongst the gases. Many were too infirm or old to escape on their own.  Many relatives could not even locate their kin.

3. As per relatives’ accounts, even when they pleaded with hospital staff to be allowed and rescue their kin, they were refused.  This indicates the height of callousness.  One can’t imagine the callousness which makes people refuse to listen to prayers and pleadings.

4. As per reports, people from the adjacent slum, who tried to help out where not allowed in also.Later, they scaled the wall, jumped in and played a big role in the rescues.

5. The fire brigade was initially not  very well equipped. They had only manual ladders which affected the rescue efforts at a critical time period.

6. The hospital staff kept giving false assurances to the people adding more to the anger and misery.

WHAT’S REALLY SHOCKING AND COULD HAVE PREVENTED THE FIRE FROM SPREADING:

Firealarms and smoke detectors, connected to sprinklers were found  turned off the previous evening so that doctors and staff could smoke. Can you believe this? That the safety of an entire hospital and the patients inside ( most were old and infirm) were compromised for the sake of a cigarette? The sheer callousness displayed by the staff and admin  of this hospital makes me wonder as to what exactly were they running in the first place.

There has been widespread nation wide anger and condemnation of the hospital and this incident.

While some immediate responses by the government of Bengal, has been to summarily cancel the hospital license, and send the directors to custody, very very critical questions arise. For all hospitals as a whole in India, for administrators, government and to us as people :

1. Safety and Fire Alert Issues. How can chemicals be stored in basement of a hospital? What is the provision for storage and disposal of such flammable stuff? How was such stuff allowed to be present in close proximity to patients?

2.Why should circuitous routes to deal with fire exist in hospitals, especially when human lives are at risk?

3. More importantly, how can hospitals, supposed to be caretakers, become killers  of patients due to callous attitude? The aim to make money has overpowered regard for human life.

4. If this sort of negligence and attitudinal shortcomings occur without any cease, in a hospital in a metro like Kolkata, which charges exorbitant rates, imagine what would be the situation in villages and rural areas?

5. Why are there  no fire or emergency drills at regular intervals to keep people prepared for emergencies?

6. Where were the staff ? 2 hospital nurses gave up their lives saving the patients. But what about the rest of the staff in the hospital?

7. Most importantly, how to rescue the spirit of humanity and lives first?

Just an update: Volunteers are becoming very very sick following helping out in the tragedy. One has to really stand up and applaud (and it is the least) to those who have helped in saving lives at the cost of their own.

Sources:

TimesofIndia

The Telegraph

The Hindustan Times

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