On February 14, a massive fire broke out at the Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital, one of the major public hospitals in the country, leaving hundreds of patients, with many critically ill, under the open sky in dire situations for hours before they were transferred to other government hospitals.
We are relieved that the patients could be evacuated in time although at least one child patient died during the transfer. We can also imagine that many other patients might have been badly affected during the shifting if not by the fire. This indicates how dangerous such a frightening incident can be if it happens in critical institutions like a hospital.
According to news reports, fire officials believe that the cause of fire may be an electric short circuit, a usual suspect. This raises questions about fire hazard awareness in public hospitals. Did the hospital have functional fire fighting equipment as required by law? Were there sufficient employees skilled in using such equipment? Were regular drills performed to make staff ready to deal with such a situation? Were there enough equipment and vehicles to transfer so many patients in case of emergency to other hospitals smoothly?
It seems that had it not been for hundreds of officials from the fire and police departments, students and intern doctors, hospital employees and volunteers who all acted promptly, the incident could very well have turned out to be disastrous.
We hope the investigation will reveal other details and indentify the shortcomings. The hospital authorities must take necessary precautions to avoid such an incident and also be equipped to handle it with efficiency and speed if it does occur, so that patients can be safely evacuated.