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Health - July 14, 2021

Oxygen use at hospitals posing high fire risk

Ongoing corona pandemic

Golam Mostafa Jibon:Around 98 percent of the hospitals in the country are at high fire risk as those have no necessary fire safety measures as well as necessary stairs and fire extinguishing equipments.
Besides, pressure of oxygen use through high flow nasal cannula at ICU units of different hospitals has increased during the corona pandemic that posing high risk of fire incidents. As a result, workers and employees of the hospitals including doctors, nurses, patients and their relatives are now passing days and nights amid extreme panic of devastating fire accidents that may take place at anytime.
According to the fire service and civil defense department report, around 422 hospitals out of 433 in Dhaka have remained under threat of fire accidents. Of them, some 173 are at high risk.
There is a complained that, authorities concerned of those hospitals did not pay heeds in this regard even after sending notices several times by the fire service authorities requesting to take necessary steps to prevent fire accidents by increasing fire safety measures.
Though, the government started moving slightly over the issue after a fire that broke out at a store room of the Shaheed Suhrawardi Hospital’s ground floor in the capital on February 14 in 2019, no notable progress in this regard was seen later.
After the incident, several probe bodies were formed with a view to investigate the incident. Fire service and civil defense authorities also conducted a survey at that time and in its report revealed that, around 97.5 percent of the hospitals in Dhaka city are at fire risk due to several reasons.
Faulty fire extinguishing measurement, lack of necessary stairs and construction of hospital buildings violating building code and without proper design are the main among many other reasons behind the prevailed fire risk. Besides, there are no necessary firefighting team and fire alarm system in the hospitals. Consequently, the situation may take serious, if any fire incident occurs. Such a fire incident is likely to cause of claim many lives along with sustain many people burn injuries, the report said.
Prof Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, Director General (DG) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) also admitted about the fragile condition of all hospitals across the country over the fire safety issue and said, “I have joined in the department during the corona pandemic. I am yet to see the list produced by the fire service over fire safety issues. However, I have taken a step to test the fire system condition of all over the hospitals across the country to prevent devastating fire incidents. Besides, I have asked the concerned people to monitor the matter regularly.”
“I am scared over the issue as most of the hospitals in the country are now fighting against COVID-19 pandemic. Many hospitals are facing accommodation crisis due to surge of COVID-19 patients in its third wave. In this time, if fire spreads in any hospital from any source, it will be seriously dangerous for us. So, we should take steps in this regard right now,” he added.
Dr M Iqbal Arslan, Member of the National Technical Advisory Committee of COVID-19 management in Bangladesh and President of Swadhinata Chikitshak Parishad (SWACHIP) said, “Fire risk has been increased in the hospitals of the country during the corona pandemic due to pressure in ICU units for the corona patients. In the meantime, the use of oxygen with the help of high flow nasal cannula has been increased for the critical patients of the ICU units in the hospitals that posing fire risk. It can spread devastating fire from a single spark. Besides, most of the electric lines and short-circuits of the hospitals are vulnerable, which cannot take heavy loads. So, we are doubtlessly at fire risk.”
It is to be mentioned that, four patients died from a devastating fire that broke out at Dhaka Medical College Hospital on March 17 this year.
Fire persons including a woman died from another fire that broke out at the United Hospital’s corona isolation unit on May 27 in 2020.
Fire service sources said, at least 21,073 fire incidents took place in the country in 2020. Of them, over 90 incidents were in different hospitals and clinics.
Earlier in 2019, around 24,000 fire incidents occurred across the country. Of them, 778 incidents took place at different hospitals and clinics due to lack of proper fire extinguishing measures.

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