The Shiv Sena on Monday called for the Ahmednagar hospital fire tragedy not to be ‘politicised’. It, however, targeted both the ruling tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition (of which it is a part of) as well as the Central Government over the incident, where 11 COVID-19 patients, mostly senior citizens, lost their lives.
In an editorial in its mouthpiece, Saamana, the Sena, which shares power with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress and has its president Uddhav Thackeray as Chief Minister, said the upkeep of the public health system was the responsibility of both the State and Central Governments. The NCP holds the Health portfolio.
It pointed out that several COVID-19 patients had lost their lives in similar hospital fire tragedies across the State in Gondia, Nashik, Mira-Bhayandar and Vasai-Virar among others over the last two years. The editorial demanded that the Government tell the public as to what concrete steps it planned to take to prevent such accidents.
“These hospital infernos have been erupting with worrying frequency in the last two years or so. It is observed that whenever fire breaks out, the afflicted unit is usually the ICU… Each time such an incident happens, the Opposition makes noises, the ruling government gives orders for a stern action. Admittedly, death is cheap now, but should it be so inhumane and cruel?” said the editorial.
Noting that the fire was being attributed to a short-circuit, the editorial stated that according to the District Collector, a fire audit had been conducted.
“Various reasons are now emerging as to why the fire broke out. The ventilators in the ICU were apparently provided from the PM CARES Fund and [NCP] MLA Rohit Pawar has suspected that they were of inferior quality and may have caused a short-circuit. However, the issue as to what caused the fire should not be politicised,” urged the Sena.
Hits out at PM
The editorial mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chastised the Centre for the ‘shambolic’ state of the country’s health infrastructure.
“Prime Minister Modi is a spiritual man. He is always praying to God for peace and prosperity in the country. He recently visited Pope Francis in the Vatican City of Rome and immediately thereafter went to Kedarnath… So, while he was praying to ostensibly alleviate the country’s calamities, 32 persons died in Bihar after consuming spurious liquor while 11 persons died in the Ahmednagar hospital fire,” the Sena observed.
Remarking that the pandemic had exposed the pathetic nature of the country’s healthcare system, the editorial rued the ‘paltry’ spending on improving health infrastructure.
“In States like Bihar and Odisha, the health system has totally collapsed while hospital accidents like those in Ahmednagar and Gondia in Maharashtra raise serious question marks…this is not the mark of a country with superpower pretensions,” said the Sena.
Following the blaze, Health Minister Rajesh Tope announced that the Government would allocate funds for fire safety audits in all district hospitals. He said a post of ‘fire safety officer’ had been proposed in all such hospitals.
‘Fire safety audit conducted’
During his visit to Ahmednagar on Sunday, Mr. Tope maintained that a fire safety audit had been conducted at the civic hospital. His department had sought technical sanction from the Public Works Department (PWD) in order to initiate the necessary safety measures at the hospital, he stressed.
“The building was constructed by the PWD and they fix the electric system… The Public Health Department as well as the hospital administration were pursuing the matter with the PWD,” he remarked.
The hospital staff and the fire brigade authorities acted swiftly to remove patients from the ICU, he claimed.
He, however, asserted that the responsibility for the tragedy would be fixed and that a high-level probe committee, which had begun the investigation, would submit a report within a week.