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Ensuring Safety in Healthcare: Union Health Ministry’s Initiative on Fire Risk Management

New Delhi: In light of recent fire incidents in healthcare facilities across the country, the Union Health Ministry has intensified its efforts to enhance fire safety protocols and measures. These incidents, often resulting from short circuits due to sub-optimal electrical maintenance or overloaded electricity lines from extensive use of air conditioners and other equipment, underscore the urgent need for rigorous fire safety management in hospitals.

The safety and well-being of patients, staff, and visitors in healthcare facilities are paramount. To mitigate the potential risks associated with fire hazards, the Ministry has called for the establishment of robust fire safety plans, regular fire-evacuation drills, and comprehensive safety protocols. These measures are not only vital for compliance with regulatory requirements but also crucial for safeguarding lives and property.

Recognizing the increased threat of hospital fires during the summer months, the Union Health Ministry has been proactive in communicating with all States and Union Territories (UTs) about the necessity of conducting regular preventive fire risk assessments. These assessments are designed to identify vulnerable areas within healthcare facilities and ensure that preventive measures are in place.

A recent review meeting held on May 29, 2024, co-chaired by the Additional Secretary (Public Health and Policy) and the Director General of Health Services, brought together representatives from all States and UTs. The meeting, which included participation from 15 State Health Departments and around 390 Healthcare Organizations, was convened to address the critical issue of fire safety in healthcare facilities.

During the meeting, the following key outcomes were highlighted:

Strict Compliance and Periodic Assessment: Emphasis was placed on the need for rigorous and regular assessments of all health facilities concerning fire safety norms.

Coordination with PWDs and Fire Departments: States and UTs were advised to enhance coordination with Public Works Departments (PWDs) and local fire departments to ensure timely issuance of fire safety No Objection Certificates (NOCs).

Fire Safety Checklist: A checklist titled ‘Prevention and Maintenance of Fire Safety’ was shared with all States and UTs. Healthcare facilities were requested to complete this checklist and submit it for review.

Regulatory Protocols and Mock Drills: All States and UTs were urged to ensure stricter compliance with regulatory protocols. They were also encouraged to conduct regular mock drills on fire safety based on feedback from macro-level assessments.

The meeting also referenced a recent tragic fire accident at a private health facility in Delhi, underscoring the critical need for these enhanced safety measures.

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