The Supreme Court Friday took cognisance of the fire outbreak in the ICU of a designated Covid-19 hospital at Rajkot in Gujarat in which five patients have died, and came down heavily on states for not taking any concrete action to mitigate the problem despite repeated instances.
Terming the incident as “shocking”, the apex court said this is a “very serious thing” and it reflects the situation of designated government hospitals as similar instances have taken place in other places also.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said the incident showed that there are no proper fire safety measures in place there to deal with such situation.
“We are taking suo motu cognisance. This is a very serious thing,” said the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah, and asked the Gujarat government to submit its report on this by December 1.
“This is shocking and this is not the first incident,” the apex court said, adding, “How many fire officers you are having to supervise all this? You don’t have fire safety measures”.
“These incidents are repeated from states to states and hospitals to hospitals. No concrete action has been taken by the states in this regard,” the bench said.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said 26 patients at the hospital were rescued and shifted to other facilities, and five other patients died.
The fire broke out around 12.30 am in the ICU ward located on the first floor of the four-storey Uday Shivanand Hospital in Anand Bungalow Chowk area, where around 31 patients were admitted, Patel added.
During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the incident is serious and the state should file a report on this.
“In government hospitals, this is the situation in ICU,” the bench observed. “This will not be applicable only for Gujarat and Rajkot but for the entire country”.
Mehta assured the apex court that home secretary would convene a meeting on this issue preferably today or latest by tomorrow and proper directions would be given.
The bench further said: “There must be inspection of whether electricity lines are proper, whether cables and wires are proper. How does this short circuit happen.”
When the lawyer appearing for Gujarat said that the high court there is seized of a similar issue, the bench observed that report given to the high court on fire safety was not proper.
When the lawyer said, “We will put our house in order”, the bench observed, “You have done nothing. For two years, appointments have not been made in the (fire) department”.
Mehta told the bench that he would ensure that the meeting takes place at the earliest and necessary directions are given in this regard.
“Immediate inspection by joint team of electricity and fire departments will be done to ensure that such incidents don’t take place,” he said.
The top court, while observing that infrastructure regarding fire safety needs to be improved, asked Mehta to file a report on the issue.
“You have to go to the root cause,” the bench told Mehta.
The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on December 1.
The issue cropped up before the bench which was hearing the matter in which it had taken cognisance regarding need for proper treatment of Covid-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies in the hospitals.
The top court on November 23 had said that the Covid-19 pandemic has “worsened” in Delhi and gone “out of control” in Gujarat and had directed the Centre and all states to apprise it of the steps taken to contain the situation nationwide.