It is well known that many new HCO are propping up in India, catering to a growing middle class and even foreigners are looking for inexpensive, quality care. While India is gaining a good reputation for its medical talent, the construction codes and public safety regulations are lagging behind. Recent devastating fire in one of the reputed private five star hospitals of Kolkata (Calcutta, India) was not only shocking for entire world but also a lesson to be learned by everyone who is connected with medical profession and governance at large.
Though the cost of ensuring that the infrastructure of the building is compliant to fire safety norms is Rs 50 -70 per square foot, but this gets sacrificed in the cost reduction drive. Also in order to maximize the use of every square inch of space to squeeze in beds for revenue generation, space for areas like Fire exits and landings get compromised.
The design and construction of the building should ensure that fires are detected at the earliest possible opportunity, contained & dousing mechanisms kick start. Robust design &adhering to the Fire Safety norms, can only go so far as preventing &/or controlling the Fire upto a certain extent. These factors play a very important role in limiting the fire, extent of damage& in buying the extra time before the fire becomes unmanageable. Once the Fire occurs, Fire safety Plan, standard operating procedures for firefighting, regular training of all staff on using extinguishers, firefighting equipment, procedures to be followed in emergency, evacuation plans& mock drillsbecome the real saviors for the patients as well as the staff. The frequency of such trainings & mock drillsare the most important factors which ensure that in case of the disaster striking, the staff do not panic, & take control of the situation to save precious lives.The fact that many of the patients are either bed bound or on critical lifesaving equipment, makes the role of the staff all the more critical in such situations.
The government regulations demand proper building design, following fire safety norms, but a very important aspect, that of staff preparedness to cope up, when the calamity actually strikes is overlooked. In spite of the best design, Fire Safety norms, there can be instances when the fire does not get controlled. In such circumstances, it is only the staff preparedness which shall make the difference between preventing disaster, or it being labeled as a disaster.
We as responsible HCOs must go a step further and bridge these lacunae. 
Friday, April 22, 2016
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