According to sources, only 3% of hospitals and clinics in Chittagong have adequate fire safety measures
Most of the hospitals and clinics of the port city of Chittagong are operating without adequate or even no fire safety measures, posing the threat of potential fire accidents, which in minutes can take away the lives of many.
A hospital is supposed to have some basic fire safety features and specialized firefighting equipments.
Adequate ventilation system, basement or semi-basement, water reservoir, firefighting pump, fire lift, ramp, generator, transformer and switchgear rooms with fire rated walls and doors, sprinkler heads, hose reels along with hydrants on every floor is a must for a place where people go to get treated, not to get burned alive.
For instance, Chittagong Eye Infirmary and Training Complex (CEITC) has no water pump room or a fire control room.
It also does not have any single line diagram (SLD), fire rated walls and doors, sprinkler heads, hose reels, hydrants, manual call points, alarm bells, emergency exit lights, lightning protection system or even a trained in-house firefighting team or anything remotely close to all these.
The Fire Service Department carried out an inspection on February 18, 2018, and categorized the CEITC establishment as "risky."
As based on the fire safety system of any establishment, the Fire Service categorizes the hospitals and clinics into three categories- very risky, risky and satisfactory.
Adding to which, the Fire Service Department carried out an inspection at the Mostafa-Hakim Maternity Hospital on December 6, 2018, and categorized the facility as "risky" for not having adequate fire safety measures.
According to an inspection conducted by the Fire Service in 2017, Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH), which provides healthcare services to over 2,500 patients every day, also lacks adequate fire safety measures, which is very alarming and needs to be addressed very soon, especially after the recent events to prevent future loss of lives.
The list of fire safety measures not present at lone tertiary level hospital in the district with 1,313 beds includes: firefighting pumps, fire lifts, safety lobbies on every floor, fire control room, hose reels with hydrants, sprinkler heads, emergency alarm bells, manual call points, and basement or semi basement.
Concerned officials, patients under threat
Brig Gen Mohsen Uddin Ahmed, director of the CMCH told the Dhaka Tribune that they were going to install an overhead water reservoir with 50,000 gallons of water very soon.
"There are a total of 123 pieces of fire extinguishers at the hospital which will expire by September 9 this year. I have already directed to find out any loose electric connections at the hospital," he added.
"We have taken adequate safety measures to avert fire-related accident from the storage of flammable materials," said the CMCH director.
The essential safety provisions that the hospitals and clinics of the port city lack include evacuation ramps, fire exit plans, fire detection and alarm systems, hose reels, safe refuge assembly space, trained in-house firefighting teams, fire escape routes, fire lifts, accessible roads and water reservoir.
Addressing the proceedings Jashim Uddin, deputy assistant director of Chittagong Fire Service told the Dhaka Tribune that only 3% of the private and public hospitals and healthcare centres in the port city posses adequate fire safety measures.
He said: "A hospital is different from any other establishment, as it is difficult to evacuate patients in the event of any fire. Therefore, any such incident in a hospital results in high casualty."
Adding to the conversation, Purna Chandra Mutsuddi, deputy assistant director of Chittagong Fire Service said: "Most of the private clinics and hospitals are not purpose-built. In most cases, the residential buildings have turned into clinics.
"Hospitals and clinics keep oxygen cylinders, chemicals and other inflammable materials, which pose a serious of casualties in case of any fire incident," she added.
Delwar Majumder, former president of the Institute of Engineers of Bangladesh (IEB) Chittagong chapter said: "The hospitals and clinics of the country lack fire safety measures.
"We act only after an incident. The recent fire at Suhrawardy Hospital has served as a wake-up for all the hospitals in the country."
Underscoring the need for improving the fire safety at all government hospitals, Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque said that the fire incident at Suhrawardy hospital is a wakeup call for all of us.
According to Chittagong Fire Service, the numbers of fire accidents stand at 498, 663, and 577 in 2016, 2017, and 2018 respectively.
Suhrawardy Hospital fire
Earlier on February 14, Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital in Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar caught fire leaving more than 1,000 patients under the open sky in dire situation for hours.
At least 18 firefighting units brought the flames under control.
A four-member probe body was also formed over the fire at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital and nationwide measures were taken by the government and concerned authorities to prevent such incidents in the future.