At least six infants died and one suffered critical burns in a fire at the nursery ward of Services Hospital on Thursday.
Additional Medical Superintendent Dr Saleem Cheema told The Express Tribune that one of the deceased had apparently died before the fire started. He said six newborns were burned in the incident. Of these, he said, five later died at the intensive care unit (ICU) where they were moved for treatment. He said the other infant was in a critical condition at the ICU. The rest suffered minor burns and were out of danger, he added.
There were 24 infants in the nursery when the fire erupted, he said.
Rescue 1122 officials told The Express Tribune that they had moved 17 babies, between two-days and two-months old, from the nursery.
They said fire had started at around 3:15pm due to an electric short-circuit in an air-conditioning unit. They said the mattress next to the air-conditioning unit caught fire first, spreading it later to rest of the room. The flames intensified helped by the oxygen supply to the incubators, they added.
Rescue officials said the use of fire extinguishers available at the hospital could have restricted the damage from the fire. They said fire extinguishers were meant for such emergencies and regretted that no one had thought about using them to put out the fire.
Some of the babies were rescued by the relatives when fire started.
Muhammad Ashraf, a resident of Tokhar Naiz Bag, said he and his brother rescued his newborn nephew and a couple of other babies from the inferno. He said nurses working at the nursery fled the scene instead of moving babies to the ICU. He said rescue and fire fighting were mostly left to the relatives of the infants until Rescue 1122 officials arrived.
Rao Javeed, a Garden Town resident, another person who claimed to have participated in the rescue work also accused the hospital staff of negligence. He said none of the staff had tried to put out the fire.
Talking to the media, AMS Cheema denied that hospital staff did not take rescue operation seriously. He said the first priority of the staff was to rescue the babies. He said three security guards had suffered burns in the rescue effort. They were given first aid at the hospital, he added.
To a question on the condition of electrical wiring at the hospital, The AMS said it was last repaired in 1987.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who had reached the hospital to monitor rescue work, said a team had been formed to probe the incident. He said its findings would help put in place measures to avoid such accidents in future.
District Coordination Officer Noorul Amin Mengal said he was satisfied with the hospital staff’s response to the fire.
Commissioner Lahore Jawad Raffique Malik, DIG (Operations) Rai Tahir, SSP (Operations) Baber Bakht Qureshi and SP (Model Town) Ather Waheed also accompanied the chief minister at the hospital.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.