Fire threat looms large over RML Hospital



New Delhi: An inferno may be in the making in government-run Ram Manohar Lohia hospital that caters to over 7,000 patients a day as it has not been able to "correct" 16 fire-prone areas inside its premises.

Pointing to the loopholes, Delhi Fire Services (DFS) had written to the hospital in December 2011 that the "perusal of the fire and life safety aspects in the hospital is alarming" and gave them 90 days time to correct themselves.

However, the hospital could not meet the deadline and has asked "some more time up to the end of May 2012" to complete the work of upgradation of fire fighting and fire alarm system at various locations of the hospital, Mumbai-based Ajay Marathe said from a reply from DFS he had received to his RTI query.

"The approach to the hospital has been found blocked, escape routes blocked/locked in all the high rise blocks, sprinkler system, smoke management system and public addressing system out of order and the basement found full of waste materials," according to the inspection of the Delhi Fire Services.

Fire extinguishers were found empty at some places, hose reel found defective/missing, Manually Operated Electrical Fire Alarm System in all blocks was out of order/removed, Compartmenting found removed/not provided, no trained manpower was available in the hospital and exit signs found removed at some places, the report read.

In a written communication to the RML administration, AK Sharma, DFS director said, "In most cases, systems have been provided but they are not functional for want of regular maintenance while the exit ways/corridors are blocked. The housekeeping is far below the acceptable standards. In some of the blocks of the hospital even NOC has not been obtained from the department viz. Trauma Center. "All the blocks in default have been allowed time up to 90 days to rectify the shortcomings as permissible under the Delhi Fire Services Rules 2010 and in the meantime the NOC issued if any, shall remain suspended and continuing with the occupancy is unsafe."

Marathe filed the RTI to know the preparedness of Delhi hospitals in fighting fire after the blaze in AMRI hospital in Kolkata last year that choked 94 people to death.

"After the deaths in AMRI hospital, all hospitals including AIIMS in the city were asked to have the fire safety measures in place by March end. It is surprising that RML hospital that caters to so many bomb blast victims, the Trauma Center especially, is functioning without an NOC. Is three months not enough time to cater to the shortcomings?" he said.

The executive engineer of the Central Public Works Department in the hospital cited "contractual reasons" as reason for extending the time of completion to the end of May 2012.

Routine testing of fire fighting and mock drill in each block of hospital, however, is being taken up every month by the fire safety staff and the locations wherever fire alarm system is to be provided, have been taken up on priority to ensure life safety from fire in the hospital, the official said.

PTI