A patient being rescued during the fire in Annexe I of AMRI Dhakuria on December 9, 2011
The health department has conducted its first inspection of AMRI Hospitals’ Dhakuria unit since it was forced shut days after the fire on December 9, 2011, that claimed 91 lives.
A three-member team from Swastha Bhavan spent one-and-a-half hours in the main unit and Annexe II of the hospital on September 13, health department sources said.
“This was our first inspection. The report will be submitted very soon,” a senior official of the health department said on Monday.
The government had revoked AMRI Dhakuria’s medical licences on December 27, 2011, days after the fire in Annexe I, which remains sealed.
“The inspection team checked the fire-fighting measures taken by the hospital since the 2011 incident,” the official said.
Sources said AMRI had written at least six letters requesting an inspection after renovating the main unit and Annexe II. The health department didn’t respond for more than a year. The first sign of a change of heart came last July when the fire department conducted an inspection.
A no-objection certificate from the fire department would make clearances from the health department and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation easier to get.
While the Mamata Banerjee ministry appears to be clearing the way for the unaffected portions of the hospital to reopen, Calcutta High Court on Monday asked the government to file within six weeks a report on why AMRI had been allowed to function despite flouting fire-safety norms.
The division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi passed the order in response to a public interest litigation filed by lawyer Rama Prasad Sarkar.
The PIL was moved on Monday before the division bench, seeking its intervention to make the fire department accountable for alleged lapses.
“The state government is directed to file an affidavit within six weeks stating why the fire department had renewed AMRI Hospitals’ fire-safety licence,” the division bench said.
Lawyer Sarkar had said in his petition that the accident might not have happened if the fire department did not renew the hospital’s licence.
A special investigation team had been constituted by the Mamata government after the AMRI fire. The chargesheet prepared on the basis of its findings did not hold the fire department culpable in any way.
The petitioner sought an order asking for a supplementary chargesheet by the investigators, naming the fire department as the main accused. He also pleaded for a separate order directing the Alipore court to speed up the trial in the AMRI case.
The fire department claims it renewed AMRI’s licence four times after the hospital management filed affidavits promising to fix the lapses. The hospital continued to run in violation of fire-safety norms until the December 2011 fire tragedy.
State government officials said the high court’s directive on Monday was not linked to the hospital reopening. “The two can’t be linked. The go-ahead for inspections by the fire and health departments show that the government is not opposed to the hospital reopening, provided all norms are followed,” said an official at Writers’ Buildings.
AMRI Hospitals is co-owned by S.K. Todi’s Shrachi Group (32 per cent) and the families of his old friends, R.S. Goenka and R.S. Agarwal. The Goenkas and Agarwals together own Emami.