Sabotage suspected in Kolkata hospital fire

More than 200 patients were evacuated and medicines worth Rs 5 crore gutted after a fire broke out in the pharmacy of the state-run Calcutta Medical College and Hospital’s main building in Kolkata on Wednesday.Fire fighters douse a fire which broke out in a pharmacy building of the Kolkata Medical College and Hospital, in Kolkata on October 3.

Suspicion of sabotage leading to a fire breaking out at the 183-year-old state-run Calcutta Medical College and Hospital on Wednesday has prompted the medical institution’s authorities to order an internal inquiry a seven-member committee led by hospital superintendent Dr Asish Basu. The committee will submit the report to the state health department within seven days.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who also holds the health portfolio, had on Wednesday ordered two parallel inquiries — by the public works department (PWD), which is in charge of the maintenance of the hospital, and the fire services department.

“We suspect there was sabotage to suppress irregularities, therefore we have decided to constitute the internal probe committee,” said West Bengal Medical Council president Nirmal Maji, also the Trinamool Congress’s MLA from Uluberia Uttar, and the chairman of the patients’ welfare committee of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.

Maji claimed it had recently come to the health ministry’s notice that the pharmacy store where the fire broke out had been locally procuring medicine and medical equipment at inflated rates, instead of following the usual practice of procuring them from central medical stores.

It was initially believed that an electrical short circuit may have caused the fire. But hospital employees Thursday found the fans and lights at the pharmacy in working condition, a health department official said on the condition of anonymity.

“Medicines stored in the pharmacy have been wasted,” minister of state for health Chandrima Bhattacharya had told reporters Wednesday. Hospital authorities had put the loss at ~5 crore.

“The probe by the PWD will check whether there were any lapses in the maintenance and fire safety system in the hospital, while the fire services department will look for the cause,” said a senior state government official, who asked not to be named.

“Each building of the hospital is under CCTV surveillance. It will be probed whether the CCTV camera at the pharmacy building was working or not when the fire broke out and whether the fire sensor was functional,” the official quoted above said.

Nearly 250 patients admitted in various wards had to be evacuated after fire broke out in the pharmacy at the ground floor at around 8.30am. Ten tenders took five hours to douse the fire.

Following the incident, the health department has decided that pharmacies in state-run hospitals should not be in any building that accommodates patients.



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