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7 Newborns Dead in Hospital Fire

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A tragedy occurred in a hospital in Delhi, India, where a fire led to the loss of seven newborn lives. Dr. Naveen Khichi, the owner of New Born Baby Care Hospital located in East Delhi’s Vivek Vihar neighborhood, and Dr. Akash, the on-duty doctor when the fire broke out late on Saturday, May 25, 2024, have been arrested.

The fire started at approximately 11:30 p.m., resulting in a chaotic situation. Of the 12 babies in the hospital, one died instantly, another passed away during treatment, and five were pronounced dead on reaching another hospital. Five infants are still under medical care.

An extensive investigation revealed numerous troubling shortcomings. The hospital was functioning with a license that expired in March for only five beds, while 12 babies were patients, and lacked sufficient fire safety measures like fire extinguishers and fire exits. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Surendra Choudhary stated, “During the investigations, we got to know that the doctors are not qualified to treat the newborn children in need of neonatal intensive care, as they are BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) degree holders only.”

The Delhi government has initiated a magisterial probe to determine the exact cause of the fire and assign responsibility. Initial investigations suggest a short circuit might have triggered the fire, but several safety protocol violations were evident. Oxygen cylinders present at the site, suspected by locals to be used for an illegal refilling operation, exploded during the fire. Saurabh Bharadwaj, the Health Minister, underscored the importance of carrying out fire audits across all hospitals in Delhi, declaring, “On April 24, we issued directions for fire preparedness. We will ask all private and Delhi government-run hospitals to complete a fire audit by June 8 and submit a compliance report.”

The incident has left the local community reeling. The fathers of two of the deceased infants expressed their heartbreak, recalling how they heard about the fire through news and friends. One father shared, “I rushed to the hospital hoping for the best but faced the worst nightmare instead.”

Dr. Khichi, a pediatrician, and his wife, a dentist, operate several clinics across Delhi. Prior problems with the hospital include a 2021 case where Khichi was accused of mistreating a newborn, and the hospital was discovered to be unregistered under the Delhi Nursing Home Act.

The local populace displayed immense courage during the catastrophe. Two nurses and multiple locals put their lives at risk to save as many infants as possible. Minister Bharadwaj mentioned, “We will recommend their names for bravery awards.”

As the probe continues, the emphasis is on preventing such tragedies in the future. The Delhi government is expediting compensation for the affected families and ensuring stricter enforcement of safety regulations in hospitals citywide.

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