Sanitizer fumes, oxygenated ambience, 24/7 electrical gadgets make ICUs unsafe | Nagpur News

Nagpur: The recent fire at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of an Ahmednagar hospital brought back memories of the horror at Bhandara district hospital, which claimed 10 babies earlier this year. It also reignited the debate around vulnerability of these crucial units and raised questions about fire safety in ICUs.
Divisional commissioner Prajakta Lavangare-Verma held a fire audit and electrical review meeting on Tuesday with collectors and district health officials. “We are periodically taking reviews with electrical department regarding safety audits at hospitals. Their inspectors physically inspect premises before reporting the status,” she said, adding budget remains a challenge many times.
Nagpur Municipal Corporation chief fire officer Rajendra Uchake said fire safety in ICUs has multiple compromising factors. “The exhaustive use of sanitizers inside ICUs leaves fumes accumulated near the ceiling. Then, ICUs are fully air-conditioned round the clock. There are multiple electrical gadgets and wires criss-crossing each other,” said Uchake, who has vast experience in managing fires.
“The ambience inside the ICU is oxygen-enriched due to the continuous supply of oxygen here. Sanitizer fumes make the situation conducive for fires at the slightest spark. Electrical gadgets are functioning round-the-clock, which also raises internal temperature of the wiring and these materials also radiate heat,” said the experienced fire officer.
Uchake said fatalities are also high as almost everyone is on life support and cannot move on their own. “It becomes difficult to shift patients on life support. They get asphyxia due to generation of smoke, other gases and abrupt disruption in oxygen supply,” he said.
Uchake said measures are being taken to train hospital staffers in fire fighting skills. “We have converted nine fire tender offices into classrooms with smart TV, where free-of-cost training is imparted to hospital staffers. One hospital staffer is also designated ‘nodal fire officer’ and is fully trained to control fires. These officers ensure mock fire drills are conducted periodically at each private hospital,” he said.
NMC medical health officer Sanjay Chilkar said hospitals like Pachpaoli Sutika Gruha, Isolation Hospital, and Indira Gandhi Rugnalaya have updated fire fighting systems. “We have been serving notices to hospitals to comply with fire safety norms before issuing them registration numbers,” he said.
District health officer Dr Deepak Selokar said fire safety equipment has been installed at 51 Primary Health Centres after a private security agency was allotted the fire and electrical safety audit work.
According to a source at civil surgeon office, mock drills are conducted and fire safety measures have been implemented at 12 rural hospitals and two district hospitals at Kamptee and Ramtek.
Dr Anup Marar, convenor of Vidarbha Hospitals Association, said any fire incident is an unfortunate accident. “VHA members have been repeatedly sensitised by fire authorities about the 3 Ps of fire safety i.e. Prevent, Plan and Practise. All equipment to prevent fire like installing and maintaining smoke suppression or detection systems, fire extinguishers and using flame retardant materials in interiors are essential,” he said.
“Likewise, having a clear fire exit in case of any eventuality, educating staff about fire control and exit plan, accessibility for fire fighters and conducting regular drills matters a lot,” he said.
“Since most private hospitals are now NABH accredited, all are expected to comply with laid down guidelines. During second wave, most hospitals also voluntarily undertook fire and electrical audits as guided by the authorities,” said Dr Marar.
HC rejects bail pleas of Bhandara hosp nurses
Two nurses of Bhandara general hospital, where a fire incident had claimed lives of 10 babies in January, had approached Nagpur bench of Bombay high court challenging the sessions court order rejecting their bail plea. The high court has also rejected their bail pleas.

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