Kashmir Observer

Bone and Joint Hospital in Barzulla district of Srinagar caught fire on Friday March 4, throwing into question safety standards in public buildings

OHAT should we make the assessment that describes the recent colossal fire accident at Barzulla Bone and Joint Hospital as a “wake-up call”? Should it be taken as a clue and clue indicating the negligence and sleepiness of concerned agencies and authorities towards the overall security of hospitals and by analogy with public buildings like schools, colleges, universities, malls, shrines, mosques? This has been suggested, at least in part, by some of the agencies responsible for the overall assessment and estimation of hospital safety metrics. A statement from the Fire and Emergency Department states that “approximately 70% of government as well as private hospitals in UT do not have basic fire safety measures in place. They lack a smoke and fire management system and in many health facilities unreliable fire management systems have been noticed”. This is the hospital safety scenario for you, for me, and for all of us. This is how poorly rated our hospitals are on the safety and security scale. It should be kept in mind that hospitals are not picnic sports or resorts, where one ventures out in pursuit of joy, adventure or thrill. It is a place to which we rush in hours of health crisis, medical emergency and state of total helplessness. The very idea of ​​a hospital invokes in us a sense of confidence, relief, and escape from the suffering in which we are caught. In other words, hospitals are meant to be niches of safety, security, dependency, reliability and supreme care. But won’t the thought interrupt us to think for a moment that the places we rush to in search of shield and security are themselves insecure and susceptible and vulnerable to various natural and weather-caused disasters? man.

The recent episode of fire at Bone and Joint Hospital has made us aware of one of dozens of security breaches that our hospitals could harbor that could culminate in disasters of an unforeseen and unaffordable magnitude. they are not duly taken care of and plugged as soon as possible.

A shortcoming of unforgivable proportion that underlies human response is our propensity for reactive rather than proactive measures. Given that the fire recently engulfed the hospital in bones and joints, all attention now seems to be diverted to the auditing and firefighting systems in place at the hospitals. And that reaction usually comes at the cost of ignoring other security settings or viewing them as less dangerous until they cause greater damage and destruction some other day. So let’s broaden our canvas and try to identify the broader contours of “Safe Hospitals”, and this description will apply, by extension and little customization, to all buildings for public use, as mentioned above. But before we can offer suggestions for ensuring appropriate security measures, our first task is to define hospital security in the most comprehensive and inclusive way possible. Hospital security can be defined as the sum total of all procedures adopted and measures taken to ensure the safety and security of patients, staff, attendants and visitors. This safety implicitly supposes in its definition its extension to both material and immaterial aspects of safety and security. When we attempt to conceptualize the tangible vectors of hospital security, we encounter three main categories: the structural security of the hospital, the security of patients, staff and attendants, and the security of equipment installed inside the hospital. ‘a hospital.

The structural safety of hospitals, in turn, involves ensuring that hospitals cope with and mitigate against unforeseen calamities such as earthquakes, ensuring that an appropriate fire-fighting mechanism is in place and providing for possible future floods and designing hospitals to withstand these eventualities. Let’s see how earthquakes influence the structure of hospitals and how various structural features can be added or subtracted to ensure that in the event of an earthquake, damage to life and property is kept to a minimum. The first place to start is to consult with structural engineers and seismic structure experts before any structure is raised to the ground. Their expert opinions and advice should be incorporated into the weaving of the construction at every stage. Well, this is a routine standard process and these things are strictly observed when a structure like a hospital, college, etc. is under construction. But what happens later is that these buildings are left in a state that can be described as “seismic ignorance”. It is not enough to have an earthquake-resistant place in the building, but it requires frequent and timely inspections, assessments, evaluations and identification of faults and defects, if any. Living in an earthquake prone region like we are, and given the unpredictable nature of earthquakes, all necessary steps should have been taken to prevent any accidents. But as we know from experts, although our hospitals are built in hindsight to respond to any earthquake emergency, there are many flaws such as emergency not working properly or getting stuck, even in the event of an earthquake. In the same vein, the absence of sufficient emergency exits and multi-storey hospitals multiplies the extent of the damage in the event of an earthquake. A professor of structural engineering and specialist in seismic micro-zoning said on condition of anonymity that most of our hospitals built in the past, including the three-storey main building of the government hospital SMHS, have not the structural characteristics necessary to provide them with a degree of resistance in the event of an earthquake.

This applies more drastically to colleges, shrines, mosques and shopping malls, which house large numbers of people at any one time.

Hospital fire safety caught our imaginations again, with the outbreak of a fire at Bone and Joint Hospital, Barzulla. Earlier, the security and fire safety audit was talked about when the famous shrine of Dastgeer Sahib, Khanyar was destroyed by a massive fire. But the fervor has faded and even to this date the holy shrines, made up of all-wooden structures, are ill-equipped to deal with any fire-related emergency. The fire extinguishers fitted there have generally been found to be dysfunctional and even if they do work, where are the people who know how to use these devices, should the need arise. The same goes for schools, colleges, universities and other places where people gather in large numbers. But there is some news about hospital fire safety and this is associated with the fact that while students in schools and people in mosques may move on their own, run and rush and save themselves, patients in hospitals are generally not able to move on themselves and rely entirely on the mercy of others to move and escape them in the event of a fire emergency, lest they be charred and spoiled by the fire. This brings us to the crucial question: do we have proper smoke detectors, fire alarms and firefighting equipment in place in hospitals? When you see a fire extinguisher hanging on the wall in any hospital covered in a dust jacket, it will alarm you and all of us that the extent of neglect is beyond forgiveness. What do the experts say about the resilience of our hospitals in the face of the fire emergency?

A statement from the Fire and Emergency Department following the recent incident said “there are no firefighting measures, no emergency power supply and the public address system is also dysfunctional. Time after time, we usually advise hospital authorities to install adequate fire safety equipment in their premises and carry out mock drills at regular intervals, but the least interest is shown from them to perform mock drills that are necessary to prepare hospital staff to control fire”. Let’s not get stuck in blame games, belittling and blame-shifting but let’s take on the challenges that hospital safety poses in its many forms and dimensions.

There are other equally important, but less talked about, parameters of hospital safety. How often do we talk about the awkward and sometimes rudimentary behavior of hospital staff towards attendants? Plagued by stress and anxiety, as these attendants usually are, their distress multiplies as they resist the rude behavior of hospital staff. But the medal also has a reverse and it looks much darker. Incidents of attendants beating doctors have increased and no civilized society should leave room for such bloody episodes. A single patient is accompanied by multiple attendants and this has a cascading effect in setting up problems on the roller coaster in all eventualities and in otherwise normal situations as well. The highly disproportionate doctor-patient ratio, safety and security of equipment installed in a hospital, frequent thefts in hospitals, often reported medical negligence are all matters of hospital security and many other aspects call for separate discussion space.

Recall that safe hospitals do not only involve fire safety, as we recently witnessed a fire in one of our hospitals, but it requires full inclusion of all the parameters discussed above. And if we talk about security, it will not be limited to hospitals, but will include in its scope all structures of public importance.


  • The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the editorial position of Kashmir Observer

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