Another fire tragedy – IMS & SUM hospital – Bhubaneswar

I was shocked to see the images on TV on 17th October night about the fire in IMS & SUM hospital in Bhubaneswar. It was reported on 18th Oct that 20 people had lost their lives.

One goes to a hospital with a lot on the mind already – about the illness and the treatment; the financial obligations; the post discharge planning etc. The last thing a patient or her family member have on their minds is fire safety. One expects a Public Space, especially a Hospital, to be fire safe. Even if a fire accident happens, one expects processes to be in place to evacuate the patients and their family members to safety. So it is really shocking that 20 people lost their lives. This after the fire accident in AMRI hospital in Kolkatta where over 90 people were killed a few years ago.

The questions that need to be discussed are as follows:

  • Why is it that we don’t learn from history? After the AMRI fire accident, has anything changed in the way hospitals are audited by external agencies on fire safety? NABH is one of the certifying agencies – have they incorporated any changes?
  • Have hospital managements reviewed and modified their fire safety processes – both on prevention and evacuation? Is fire safety even discussed at the highest levels of the management?

In my view all hospitals in the next 30 days should do the following:

  • Review the current process on fire safety and incorporate changes if any
  • Create an annual training calendar for all employees of the hospital to be trained on fire safety. In fact, an employee should go through a training session once in 6 months
  • Come up with a calendar for conducting mock drills periodically – take the exercise seriously and not as a mere check mark
  • Create a mechanism for all the patients and the family members to be given directions on fire evacuation – ex : play videos on TV screens

In addition, the Fire Department or agencies appointed by them should do periodic audits of the hospitals – say every 6 months.  Also NABH and agencies should re-look at their fire safety processes and modify them based on the learnings from AMRI and SUM hospital.

If we continue to ignore the past, we will have similar tragedies occurring frequently. It is time that all the stakeholders in Healthcare wake up!!

– by Gopal Devanahalli


Gopal is currently Senior Vice President, Manipal Global Education. He has over 22 years of Corporate experience and has worked with Infosys and Kotak in the past. He has been interested in public policy and has recently done a public policy course in The Takshashila Institution. He is a member of the Executive Council of Beyond Carlton. He lives in Bengaluru.

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