Flames Tear Through Delhi Hospitals, Prompting Urgent Safety Measures

Amidst the alarming fire incidents at hospitals in Delhi, authorities are scrambling to implement stringent fire safety protocols to safeguard patients and staff.

Photo by Suresh K Pandey/Outlook
Baby Care Hospital at Vivek Vihar in East Delhi, A massive fire broke out at the hospital on Saturday night, killing seven babies. Photo by Suresh K Pandey/Outlook

While pointing out a spot near an electric pole, Sudhir Sharma, a local fruit seller of Vivek Vihar said, “I was right there, when the fire broke out. It must have been around 11:30 in the night when the entire hospital building started burning. People from the vicinity ran to extinguish the fire. I saw some people from inside the hospital running out.”.

7 newborn babies died due to a fire at a hospital in Vivek Vihar, East Delhi on May 25. According to the initial investigation by the fire department, a short circuit could be the cause of this fire.

Sudhir further says “In a short while there was chaos and fire engines started arriving. Some injured were taken to the nearest hospital (East Delhi Advance NICU Child Specialist Hospital). I was there till 3:30 in the night, I came to know that 4 babies had died but when I saw the news in the morning, I came to know that only one newborn had died. Some other babies are still undergoing treatment.”

A staff of East Delhi Advance NICU Child Specialist Hospital, where the injured children were being examined, said “6 newborn babies died on the way to the hospital. We admitted 5 children who were later referred to GTB Hospital.” Another newborn died on the evening of May 31 at GTB Hospital.

In the initial investigation, it was also found that the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) registration of this hospital named Baby Care Newborn Hospital had expired on 31 March, despite which patients were still being admitted in the name of services in this hospital.

While addressing the media, the fire department director said they could have saved more babies if there had been easy access to entry and exit and there was no one to guide them regarding the stairs and available cylinders in the hospital. There was no fire extinguisher available in the hospital. Further investigation unveiled an alarming reality – some doctors, despite being BAMS degree holders, were treating newborns requiring Neo-Natal Intensive care, for which they lacked proper qualifications. Swiftly acting on these findings, the police added Sections 304 and 308 of the Indian Penal Code to the FIR and arrested the hospital's director, Dr. Naveen Kichi (the owner of the hospital), and Dr. Akash (The doctor who was on duty when the fire broke out). Authorities disclosed that the accused operated three such clinics in Delhi.

The Shahdara Police also uncovered grave irregularities at a hospital, leading to arrests. Deputy Commissioner Surendra Chaudhary revealed that the hospital had authorization for only five beds but had installed over ten, violating norms. Sudhir said that he sells fruits here every day, and he has always seen crowds around this hospital.

In response to the incident, Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj on May 27 announced mandatory fire safety equipment in all hospitals, regardless of size. Previously, NOCs for fire safety were not required for nursing homes on the ground or first floors, which allowed the non-compliant hospital to operate. Going forward, Bhardwaj stated that water sprinklers, smoke detectors, and other fire safety measures will be compulsory for all healthcare facilities across all floors.

This is not the only incident of fire in Delhi this week, a fire broke out in an eye hospital named Eye Mantra in West Delhi on May 28 at around 11:30 am. However, this fire was extinguished in time and there was no loss of life reported in this incident.