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Fire claims 18 lives in Indian hospital’s Covid-19 section

Rights activists see government negligence in repeated hospital accidents

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: May 01, 2021 01:14 PM GMT

Updated: May 02, 2021 02:21 AM GMT

Fire claims 18 lives in Indian hospital’s Covid-19 section

Charred medical equipment are seen inside a ward of the Patel Welfare Covid Hospital after a fire broke out overnight killing 16 Covid-19 patients including one health worker, in Bharuch some 190 km from Ahmedabad on May 1, 2021. (Sam Pathaky/ AFP)

A fire in a government hospital in the western Indian state of Gujarat burnt to death sixteen Covid-19 patients and two nurses on May 1 in the second such incident in a fortnight in the country, where the pandemic’s second wave has crippled the medical facilities.

Such repeated accidents in state-run hospitals show the horrible neglect faced by government facilities meant for the poor, said Catholic leaders in the state.

The fire broke out in the ICU unit of the Patel Welfare Hospital in Bharuch district. It erupted at midnight reportedly caused by a short circuit. Patients who escaped the fire have been moved to nearby hospitals.

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Bishop Jose Chittooparambil of Rajkot diocese said the “it was very shocking to learn the death of so many pandemic patients and two nurses.”

Jesuit rights activist Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, based in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city, said people come to hospitals to save their lives.

“But it is a sad case when patients die in hospitals because of accidents,” he said adding that such accidents do not reflect well on the hospitals.

The priest told UCA News May 1 that a  probe should bring the culprits to the book and “they should be given exemplary punishment.”

He said the second wave of the pandemic outbreak “has exposed the horrible situation of the medical facilities in the state.”

On April 23 a fire in Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state in western India, killed 13 Covid-19 patients.

In another similar incident, 22 Covid-19 patients were killed following an oxygen leakage in a hospital in Nashik also in Maharashtra on April 21.

Father Prakash accused the federal and the state governments “of abdicating their responsibilities in developing proper public health system in the state.”

“They always insisted on promoting the private health care system rather than the public health care system. And now the poor, marginalized and the middle class are dying for want of basic treatment after the second wave of pandemic hit the state,” the priest said.

“Hundreds of thousand people are dying in Gujarat daily following pandemic infection as they do not have access to basic medical facilities,” the activist priest lamented.

He said experts had cautioned of the impending danger of the second wave of the pandemic “but the government did nothing to address it,” he said.

The Jesuit said most government hospitals “have buildings but don’t have required number of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff to run them,” the priest said.

The Catholic Church “used to offer our institutions and people whenever the state faced calamities such as earthquakes, but now the situation is different as it is a contagion” and just volunteers are not enough to address it, he said.

Gujarat is among the worst-hit states in the country. It recorded 4,252 new Covid-19 positive cases and 173 death on April 30 as the country added close to 400,000 new cases.

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