“Many of the violations were very minor, like the exit door was locked or the fire extinguisher expired—it needs to be renewed every year —and those were corrected immediately after our inspection. Notices were issued where gross violations were found,” said a senior fire officer. “The 178 hospitals-nursing homes where major violations were noticed have been issued notices to put fire safety measures in place within 120 days or face action,” the officer added.
Fire safety audits are indeed necessary, but they need to be regular, after a fixed time gap, and merely a reaction to a certain event. Unfortunately, such examinations in the city and the state end up creating the impression that they are ‘after the tragedy’ wisdom. This perception has to change, and for it to change, the BMC must communicate clearly with establsihments and ensure that timely and accurate checks are made so that tragedies are averted in the first place.
Some of the private nursing homes, however, said they were given 10 days to submit fire compliance, form B and even electrical audit.
An officer, requesting anonymity, said that compromising with the fire safety norms at hospital and nursing homes are serious compared to other premises.
Several nursing home owners, however, said that the BMC should carry out timely inspections, rather than initiate knee-jerk exercises. “After every fire incident, whether it’s in AMRI in Kolkata or ESIC in Marol, such mindless audits are imposed on hospitals. There was a fire in a major vaccine manufacturing plant recently. Why was no audit sought of all manufacturing units?” asked a nursing home administrator.
The owner of a south Mumbai nursing home said that he was served a notice by the BMC for not having Form B which is granted by an independent agency every six months after checking if the firefighting equipment are functional.
The doctor said that because of the coronavirus pandemic, most couldn’t get the six-monthly audit done. “And now that the municipal corporation has told us to submit Form B within 15 days, the agencies doing such audits are asking for three to four times their usual charges,” he complained.
Another nursing home owner said that such agencies were asking for Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000, up from their usual demand of Rs 8,000.
Dr Deepak Baid, president of the Association of Medical Consultants, said, “The fire safety norms treat a big hospital and a 10-bed nursing home on par. We have urged the state government to form an expert committee to study the feasibility of these norms.”
He added that the decision of not allowing some nursing homes to admit patients has been put on hold on the Association of Medical Consultants’ request.