There were 14 patients under treatment at the ICU when the fire broke out
Two critically ill Covid-19 patients and one suspected patient at Dhaka Medical College Hospital died while they were being evacuated following a fire incident at the Covid-19 ICU unit on Wednesday morning.
The authorities said that of the victims, Abdullah Al Mamun, 48, was a suspected patient while Kazi Golam Mostafa, 63, and Kishore Chandra Roy, 68 were Covid-19 patients. They were all on ventilation.
There were 14 patients under treatment at the ICU when the fire broke out.
Mamun, who hailed from Munshiganj, had been under treatment at the ICU since March 4; Kishore, hailing from Dinajpur, was at the ICU since March 9 and Golam Mostafa, from Dhaka, was there since March 12.
Fire Service and Civil Defence headquarters’ official Zia Rahman said: “The fire broke out at the Covid-19 dedicated ICU facility on the third floor of the building at around 8am. Five firefighter units worked to douse the blaze.”
“The fire had caused dense smoke inside the facility. We had to break the windows to let the smoke out and rescue the patients. Fortunately, the other ICU patients were safely evacuated,” he added.
Hospital authorities suspected the fire had originated from a monitor of the ICU.
The fire has also burned all machinery and beds in the unit.
What witnesses say
Fahimul Islam, a witness, told this correspondent that his father Abdul Kader, 68, was at bed number 12, which was in the middle of a row.
He said that on Tuesday a mechanic went there to fix a High Flow Nasal Cannula.
Patients claim that the machine might have malfunctioned as the mechanic did the repair work while keeping the machine running.
“[On Wednesday morning] the machine started overheating, making the room very hot and we thought there would be an explosion,” said Fahimul.
Suddenly flames started coming out of the machine and burned a patient’s pillow.
He claimed that patients and their attendants started crying for help but no ward boys or nurses were there to handle the machine.
So the patients unplugged their oxygen masks and laid them down on the floor to avoid the blaze.
After some time electricity went off and black smoke engulfed the room. Relatives of the patients looked for wheelchairs or stretchers to get them out but in vain, he claimed.
“Then I managed one from another room and pulled my father out of the ICU,” he said.
The patients were all on the floor for a good amount of time before help arrived, he said.
A patient, Rebeka Begum, said she pulled off her cannula and oxygen mask, and her husband Md Ali managed the stretcher. She was bleeding.
What the authorities say
Asked about the defect in the High Flow Nasal Cannula machine, Brig Gen Md Nazmul Haque, director of DMCH, said that repair work was a part of regular maintenance.
“We will investigate whether the patients died due to the smoke,” he said. He said that the patients who died were already in critical condition.
“They were on ventilation support. We quickly evacuated them to the ICU of the old building and the High Dependency Unit of the burn unit soon after the fire broke out.”
The oxygen supply was on while they were transferred, he said, claiming that patients died after they were evacuated.
About the source of the fire, he said that it might have originated from one of the ICU monitors. “But we will be able to say more after further investigation.”
“The other patients who were evacuated from the ICU, 11 of them in total, are now undergoing treatment at the hospital’s other departments and wards,” the DMCH director added.
Since the fire outbreak, three probe bodies have been formed by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), DMCH and Fire Service and Civil Defence headquarters to investigate the incident.
The Fire Service and Civil Defence headquarters formed a four-member committee to probe the fire, confirmed Debashish Vardhan, deputy director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, while talking to reporters at the scene.
He said: “The committee will have to submit its findings within 15 working days.”
Earlier on January 7, another fire broke out in the hospital’s emergency department. However, no casualties were reported in the incident.