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Meghalaya stresses hospital safety

Shillong, Jan. 23: The worst ever hospital disaster of the country took place on December 9, 2011, at Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI), a premier private hospital in Calcutta. Following the tragedy, Meghalaya exhorted hospitals in the state to adopt safety measures to prevent the recurrence of such devastation.

However, even after more than two years, the Meghalaya government has not been able to pull up hospitals and is still asking them to come up with fire safety plans.

Keeping in mind the tragedy at AMRI, a three-day workshop on hospital safety, mass casualty management and hospital disaster management planning is being organised for both government and private-run hospitals here today.

“We have again asked authorities of different hospitals to prepare the safety plans within eight weeks from today,” Meghalaya principal secretary (disaster and management), P.K. Srivastava, told reporters at a news conference.

The directive is a repetition of what the state government had alerted hospitals with in December, 2011, a few days after the AMRI fire which killed more than 90 people.

Srivastava said the plans would be prepared by the hospitals with the assistance of experts engaged by the government.

He added that under the National School Safety Project, 45 engineers from the state would be trained on disaster management from March 1 this year.

Member of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Muzzaffar Ahmed said the national disaster management guidelines would be also implemented soon to ensure that hospitals adhere to safety norms.

While underlining the need to have networking among hospitals, especially during an emergency, Ahmed said that it was also mandatory for hospitals to have accreditation from National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers. He also stressed the need to prepare for other forms of devastation, apart from fire.

With Meghalaya facing a threat of a major disaster (the state lies in Seismic Zone V, which is prone to earthquakes), the NDMA official said people should not opt for highrises and instead build earthquake-resilient structures. “When disaster takes place, it is the collapse of a building that kills many people,” he warned.

He even suggested that building bylaws be amended to ensure that safe structures be built apart from enhancing the capability of the engineers who should also identify old buildings.

The Meghalaya government had amended the Meghalaya Building Bylaws, 2001 by increasing the height of buildings from 42 feet to 65 feet for residential and upto 90 feet for commercial buildings.