Caught in a dark cloud of smoke triggered by massive fire, 68 newborn babies were gasping for breath in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Gauhati Medical College & Hospital (GMCH) on Friday evening.
The incident occurred after the Continuous Positive Air Pressure Machine (CPAP) in the room at the GMCH caught fire due to short circuit around 6.30 pm.
The incident triggered panic among the parents and hospital staff. Some inconsolable mothers were seen crying and sobbing. According to some parents, several babies complained of uneasiness due to smoke inhalation following the incident.
Hospital sources said there have been no reports of any casualty in the incident. All the babies were immediately taken out and shifted to a nearby room of the hospital.
Doctors have said all the babies were safe. Police officials present in the hospital, however, have refused to speak to reporters. Firefighters from Dispur rushed to the hospital and doused the flames.
While Assam government makes tall claim for neonatal care, the incident of sudden outbreak of fire caught the GMCH administration on the wrong foot.
Pijush Hazarika, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare and Guwahati Police Commissioner Pradip Saloi had to rush to the hospital to take care of the situation. Minister Hazarkia said that all the babies were safe and there was no causality.
“Thank God there is no casualty. All the babies are safe. The incident occurred when the CPAP machine in the NICU caught fire,” he said. Hazarika said the CPAP machine which caught fire was serviced last week.
Assam government has been facing serious criticism for poor neonatal care, and as many as 18 newborn babies died in Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH) in November this year.
As per an inquiry report, 15 newborns died at the special care newborn unit (SCNU) of JMCH since November 1 because of lack of adequate infrastructure and complicated delivery.