Major hospital at fire risk
Most of the fire extinguishers at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) have been beyond their expiry date for more than a year. Worse still, the university has no trained personnel to use those devices in case of a fire.
It all poses a serious fire threat to hundreds of patients, doctors, staff and visitors at the country's lone medical university.
The university has around 2,000 fire extinguishers, most of which were installed in 2012-13, on different floors of its seven highrise buildings. These devices were supposed to be refilled after a year, but nobody has bothered to pay attention to this.
Many of the extinguishers have even got damaged and discoloured and lost discharge hose or nozzles.
According to top officials of the university, BSMMU's engineering section, which is responsible for such matters, did not even notice the expiry of the extinguishers.
No one of the authorities concerned wants to shoulder the responsibility. The office of the director and the engineering department traded blame.
“It's the responsibility of the director to look into the matter. If the director issues a letter, we buy, install and refill the extinguishers,” said BSMMU Chief Engineer Srikanta Roy.
On the other side, Director Brig Gen (retd) Abdul Majid Bhuiyan said, “They [the engineering department] are wrong. It's their job as they oversee maintenance of those devices.”
Asked if it is a case of serious neglect by the authorities concerned not to pay proper attention to fire safety, Bhuiyan said, “Definitely it is neglect of [someone's] duties and responsibilities.”
About fire training, the director claimed to have trained 60 staff members to use the extinguishers.
However, doctors and officials concerned said the university had no such trained staff.
During visits to 17-storey D Block, 10-storey C Block and six-storey B Block, it was found that fire extinguishers were out of date on each floor of those blocks. The C and D blocks accommodate most of the patients at the BSMMU hospital.
The 1,520-bed hospital roughly accommodates 1,200 to 1,300 patients and provides treatment to several thousand outdoor patients. A large number of attendants also stay at the hospital, while around 4,500 doctors, nurses, and other staff members work there.
Even the fire exhausters in front of C Block's Intensive Care Unit (ICU), D Block's Coronary Care Unit (CCU), C Block's Neonatology ICU, operation theatres of surgery, neurosurgery, caesarean OT and labour room, obstetrics and gynaecology, ophthalmology, ENT and neck surgery are beyond their expiry date.
The two fire extinguishers installed in front of the hospital director's room are older than others in the building except the damaged ones. Installed on January 19, 2011, these two devices expired on January 18, 2013.
The director has been unaware of the issue.
Recently, a small fire broke out on a floor of A Block that created huge panic among doctors and patients.
“We always worry how we will deal with the situation in case of a fire. We have informed our higher authorities repeatedly, but in vain,” said a ward boy of neurosurgery ward asking not to be named.
“None should avoid responsibility as it involves lives of hundreds of people,” said Assistant Proctor of BSMMU Prof Atiqur Rahman.
He added the hospital needed trained personnel to deal with fire.
Treasurer of the university Prof Zulfiqur Rahman Khan said there must have been neglect on the part of the authorities. He pointed finger at the hospital administration in this regard.
When The Daily Star drew his attention to the issue, newly appointed BSMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Kamrul Islam said, “I am going to take necessary measures soon.”