Leaders of opposition accuse the Maha Vikas Aghadi government of its large-scale corruption in handling the COVID-19 pandemic over the last one year. The proffering for thermometer, fans, bedsheets and dead body bags were made at much higher rates than the market prices. The opposition believes that large-scale corruption and mismanagement is resulting in chaos at COVID centres.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya told Afternoon Voice, “The frequent fire incidents that are taking place in COVID centres are due to the deliberate negligence of authorities. Dahisar Jsumbo facility was the third such incident at a COVID hospital in the city in the last six months. There were no fire safety compliances at hospitals and nursing homes. Patients in jumbo COVID centres are housed in temporary hangar-like structures and are vulnerable to fire incidents. They must be audited every month and firemen must be stationed in such centres but no one bothers about the safety of the common man.”
Somaiya further stated, “There is a lot of pressure on the whole health system of Maharashtra. Also, over time, the Mumbai metropolitan regions are widely ruled by Shiv Sena. Due to corruption, the fire protection concept is compromised heavily in these areas. Corruption and mismanagement are the two important factors which are causing such fire incidents across Maharashtra’s COVID centres.”
Opposition leader Pravin Darekar thwacked the Uddhav Thackeray led government for its failure on all fronts. He said, “MVA just wants to take credit for their self-boasted control on COVID cases in the state, where it has played no role.”
Sujit Patker, director, Lifeline Hospital Management Services, the agency managing the Jumbo COVID centre denies the opposition’s allegations, he says, “The new strain of the COVID-19 virus is mutated and is showing different symptoms than the first wave. Mumbai is passing through the peak of the second covid wave. The number of positive patients is decreasing this week, whereas the western countries are now going through the third wave. Mumbaikars are more tolerant, flexible, disciplined with high awareness about the pandemic compared to other cities. Hence getting over this second wave of the pandemic should not be a concern for them.”
“BMC / Govt officials, front line officers, Covid warriors are working day and night to ensure that medical facilities and care are provided to all the Mumbai citizens. COVID Care Centres (CCC) is designed specifically to cater to COVID patients. These CCC are self-equipped with attached pharmacy, pathology labs and competent medical staff (nurses and specialist doctors). The entire operation is taken care of by BMC authorities with adequate checks and controls, CCC are a self-sufficient ecosystem in itself”, added Patker.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis alleged corruption in the measures taken by the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government in handling the COVID-19 situation in the state.
In reply to Devendra Fadnavis’s allegations, Sujit Patker said, “During the entire life cycle of the COVID centre various statutory audits are conducted by the authorities. The staffs are also well trained to attend to any emergency crises that may arise at the COVID care centre. Safety audits and mock drills are conducted at regular intervals. Fire engines and Ambulances are always kept reserved to deal with emergencies. Biowaste segregation and disposal is also well managed. Here everything is transparent and there is no scope for corruption.”
Media Panelist-Maharashtra BJP Avadhut Wagh said, “Since most of the COVID Centres are built on an emergency basis and without following due process of tendering, the work is awarded to the favoured few. Corruption combined with inexperienced contractors made these COVID centres the death traps. Fires at COVID centres at Bhandara, Bhandup, Virar, Nashik are just the tip of an Iceberg. The government needs to give contracts to reputed companies like Tata, Larsen and Toubro etc. in case of emergency work and to monitor construction through institutes like IIT.”
Besides political leaders Afternoon Voice also talks to several people including RTI activists, journalists and other media professions about the recent fire incidents that happened in the state.
Vivek Mantri, International NLP Trainer, Clinical Hypnotherapist says, “In the present scenario where we saw many fire breakouts, it’s not about a person who lost life, but along with him his entire family gets devastated. It leads to social chaos. No matter which government is ruling, it’s important to follow the norms of structural audit and fire audit. Government should value common man’s lives without taking them for granted.”
Senior Journalist Abhijeet Rane says, “Without prejudice or political vested interests if we think realistically then every fire incident is an unintended accident. Corruption could cheat or loot and negligence would cause a fire but the government could not be blamed or accused of negligence or mismanagement for the people who are on the spot responsible for the fire in hospitals. In the world, accidents keep happening in the air or water or on earth. Mishaps are beyond the control of any government. Even in developed countries known for disciplined and efficient clean administration accidents take place but politicians don’t indulge in mudslinging as it happens in India especially Maharashtra.”
RTI Activist Shakeel Ahmed told Afternoon Voice, “All these fire incidents from Thane fire to Virar Hospital tragedy to Bhandup Mall fire is happening to due to negligence of the state government. According to Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006 the building owners and occupants to install firefighting measures and ensure proper evacuation measures in the case of a fire emergency. And if anybody doesn’t follow it then the fire brigade official has the authority to seal the particular building or office. But the management only reacts when such tragedy happens and later, they just do a formality in the name of investigation.”
Arpit Tiwari, a PR manager said, “Hospitals and COVID care centres are currently working round the clock to make sure to save as many lives as possible from COVID-19. This pandemic has been a mirror to not just India but several nations about their healthcare standards and system. The increase in the number of fire incidents in the health care centres in the city is because of a lack or failed security systems in place. Whenever there is a fire incident only then we realise that there were lapses in our fire security management. The corporation should also pay timely visits to such important centres to make sure that there is enough mechanism to deal with such incidents. Also, at the same time, the hospitals should prioritize periodic testing of firefighting systems and regular training of staff to use it to avoid such incidents.”
Consultant Plastic Surgeon and Director Namaste Health tech platform, Anshuman Manaswi said, “Fire in a Hospital is a disaster. The COVID centres with a lot of oxygen cylinders are especially vulnerable because the fire spreads very fast. Thus, the margin of error is very low. For prevention, it is important that all the electrical materials used should be of very high quality and should be inspected regularly. Strategy for prevention short-circuiting should be recommended by the electrical engineers. Quarantine centres should have adequate fire extinguishers. The kitchen area must be far away. Oxygen cylinders when not in use should be closed properly. It is equally important that quarantine centres opening must be inspected and should not be allowed to operate where the rescue operations may be difficult.”
A former journalist and scriptwriter Jaidev Hemmady said, “The reason behind the frequent fire incidents is the poor planning of hospitals. I believe hospital administrations try to save money by not doing due diligence regarding fire safety methods and fire exits etc. After all, running a hospital has become more of a business than a public service so the patient comes last on the priority list.”
Social activist Jitendra Ghatge said, “Most of the fire accidents are happening due to short circuits in faulty electrical systems. Unfortunately, the fire audits do not cover this important issue. Such incidents mainly happen in the summer seasons due to load shedding, hence the government must do a proper audit of the electrical system and made it compulsory not just in hospitals but in every building to avoid such tragedy.”
Akash Jaiswal, a senior Journalist quoted, “Considering the present COVID-19 situation, we are all aware that the hospitals are striving hard to occupy more patients as compared to their regular capacity. More beds, oxygen tanks and other facilities are required and in such a case there are major possibilities of infrastructural, fire safety and other mismanagements. Hospitals and BMC needs to work cooperatively to ensure that all safety measures are met along with providing better health care facilities.”
Adv Ali Kaashif Khan cited, “We are all not prepared with this tragic COVID pandemic and are still struggling and thriving towards its end. The Major failure on our part is lack of medical facilities, mismanagement by staff and most importantly mishandling the patients. Moreover, due to the higher presence and usage of combustible substances like sanitisers of which usage has increased largely during the time of pandemic and this can act as a catalyst in the spreading of fire.”
Dr Deepak Chaturvedi, M.D. (Medicine) says, “This is indeed unfortunate and sad that few COVID centres in Maharashtra met with fire accidents in recent times. This is not an issue to drive or run politics on. The blame game will neither find the problem nor give the solution. The authorities in command should do a fair audit of the situation without getting influenced by any political party (in power or opposition). The fire audit of such centres should happen at the same compliance as is done for nursing homes and hospitals. No compromise should be done in terms of the materials used in such a centre concerning fire safety norms. Let the expert agencies do their job without getting undue pressure from political parties and come up with an explanation of the problems and ways to solve them. Any more fire or such accident in any of the COVID centres should be completely avoided.”
“I would like to urge here to all the stakeholders involved in making and operating COVID care centres that please don’t use this disaster as an opportunity to make money. Please be kind to humanity and give your best for the larger social, national and human cause. We all have to answer ourselves and our next generation of all what we are doing today. Let’s stay loyal to this social cause”, Dr Chaturvedi added.
Niyati Kadam a resident of Thane said, “Many parts of Mumbai have been experiencing fires at COVID centres. It has been speculated that it is because of mismanagement of the hospital staff and authorities overlooking the Centres but it is a very strange coincidence that these fires have started after the Remidisivir smuggling Scam was caught, where BJP’s senior leader Devendra Fadavnis was allegedly involved and he received a lot of backlashes. Mismanagement and excess load on medical workers could also be the reason but that seems very unlikely as they are trained to work under pressure. Also, it is important to note that all these fires have started quite suddenly. When we have dealt with major COVID waves last year.”
Ekta Morabkar who owns a food venture – Mom’s Magic Kitchen told Afternoon Voice, “It’s quite unfortunate that people are losing their lives because of the poor management in hospitals and lack of sensitivity in doctors during the pandemic. Just being emotional is not good we also need to be practical and think about what could be the other reasons behind it. I feel somewhere management who is supposed to take care of all these incidents are not able to do their work efficiently. Also, I feel the authority has taken things very lightly because the same incidents are happening everywhere that cannot be a coincidence.”