Blog | Monday, January 9, 2012

Hospital of horror


Every once in a while, a tragic news story pierces though the emotional wall we set up to handle the endless torrent.

The news of a hospital fire in Kolkata [formerly Calcutta], India is one such story for me.

The name of the hospital is the "Advanced Medical Research Institute," known locally as AMRI.

It seems that any place wanting to call itself advanced would consider basics like a fire safety plan and how to execute it.

I was particularly horrified by the utter abandonment of patients by the medical professionals. From a New York Times article on the blaze: "The doctors on duty fled the hospital almost immediately, leaving patients stuck in their wards and at the mercy of the billowing black smoke, witnesses and patients told reporters."

I was reminded of Hurricane Katrina and the brave docs who stuck around tending to those so critically ill that they couldn't be moved out of the storm's path.

The Kolkata fire tragedy was compounded by inept administration, security, and rescue response. From the same article: "Local people who tried to get inside the hospital to help rescue patients said they were turned away by security guards who assured them it was only a small kitchen fire.

"Hospital officials were slow to call the Fire Department, and then fire trucks were slow to arrive, hospital officials said.

"In fact, it took firefighters more than 12 hours to subdue the blaze, Fire Department officials said. The hospital's fire detection and suppression system did not function ..."


Who bears responsibility for such a tragedy?

"Six senior hospital officials were charged with culpable homicide in connection with the fire, according to government officials."

Goodness.

This post by John H. Schumann, FACP, originally appeared at GlassHospital. Dr. Schumann is a general internist. His blog, GlassHospital, seeks to bring transparency to medical practice and to improve the patient experience.