Demystifying Medicine One Month at a Time

Hospital of Horror

photo credit: Times of India

Every once in a while, a tragic news story pierces though the emotional wall we set up to handle the endless torrent.

The news of a hospital fire in Kolkata [formerly Calcutta], India is one such story for me.

The name of the hospital is the “Advanced Medical Research Institute,” known locally as AMRI.

It seems that any place wanting to call itself advanced would consider basics like a fire safety plan and how to execute it.

I was particularly horrified by the utter abandonment of patients by the medical professionals. From a NY Times article on the blaze:

The doctors on duty fled the hospital almost immediately, leaving patients stuck in their wards and at the mercy of the billowing black smoke, witnesses and patients told reporters.

I was reminded of Hurricane Katrina and the brave docs who stuck around tending to those so critically ill that they couldn’t be moved out of the storm’s path.

The Kolkata fire tragedy was compounded by inept administration, security, and rescue response. From the same article:

Local people who tried to get inside the hospital to help rescue patients said they were turned away by security guards who assured them it was only a small kitchen fire.

Hospital officials were slow to call the Fire Department, and then fire trucks were slow to arrive, hospital officials said.

In fact, it took firefighters more than 12 hours to subdue the blaze, Fire Department officials said. The hospital’s fire detection and suppression system did not function…

Who bears responsibility for such a tragedy?

Six senior hospital officials were charged with culpable homicide in connection with the fire, according to government officials.

Goodness.

3 Comments

  1. Pranab

    I hail from the city where this tragedy took place. While the death of the patients is in no way acceptable, the way the local media has been hounding the doctors over this is also unacceptable. It was a very cowardly thing to do, undoubtedly, but the hospital authorities were probably more at fault than docs (who would be mostly the most junior on the staff, considering the fact that the blaze set off in the wee hours of the day) who fled for their lives.

    I am not defending the docs who fled their posts, but just saying that the super-commercial system put in place by these private institutions do little to foster anything in the terms of loyalty. Hence when trouble brews, the docs are the first ones out the door. If one does not feel attached to his place of work, then that is what is to be expected.

    And take it from someone who lives and works in the city of Kolkata/Calcutta, the state of the Govt run hospitals is probable even worse. And considering the fact that the patient load is several times of AMRI and the emergency response systems even more rudimentary, a tragedy of gargantuan proportions is in the making…

    The problems run much deeper than can be seen from the fresh, glossy surface. Us “bottom-feeders” know it the best.

    • glasshospital

      Dear Pranab: Thanks for your perspective on this. It’s really helpful to understand the for-profit mentality and how it affects professionalism (to say the least!).

      -JS

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