26-year-old Baina Behera was undergoing dialysis last evening when suddenly flames from a fire ripped through the first floor of the private Sum hospital here.
Today, Behera considers himself fortunate to be alive, recalling how he asked the doctor to stop the dialysis and broke a window pane without waiting for any help and descended to the ground safely holding on to a water pipe.
But some critical patients, who were in the dialysis unit and the Intensive Care Unit(ICU), could not survive. As many as 20 patients perished in the fire with most of them dying due to asphyxia.
Families of some victims and accused the hospital management of not undertaking the evacuation process properly. Hospital authorities, however, maintained that there was no lapse on their part and that the evacuation protocol had been strictly followed during the rescue operation.
The blaze was suspected to have been triggered by an electric short circuit in the dialysis ward on the first floor which spread to the adjacent ICU, where some patients were on ventilator support.
Behera, a resident of Mangalpur village under Pipili police station area in Odisha's Puri district, said he was really lucky to have escaped the thick smoke and fire that broke out while about a dozen others waited till being evacuated.
"The fire broke out when I was undergoing dialysis. I asked the doctor to stop it. I broke the window pane and went down with the help of a water pipe. A technician also followed me and came down from the first floor dialysis unit by using the same water pipe," Behera said.
Behera's brother Babuli, who was also present at the dialysis unit during the fire mishap, jumped from the first floor and escaped.
The nurse at the dialysis unit, however, said she continued to remain till all the people were evacuated safely.
"I along with other nurses at the nearby medicine ICU ensured that all the patients get shifted. It was smoke and fire every where," the shocked nurse said, adding that she too required to overcome the trauma.
Badrinath Nanda, whose 73-year-old father Pradumnya Nanda
has been shifted to the Capital Hospital after the fire incident, said he was asked by the Sum Hospital staff to take away the patient.
"How could I have taken my father out alone. My father has been suffering from paralysis. It took about one hour to shift my father from Sum Hospital," Badrinath said.
Like Nanda, many others complained that their patients could have been alive today had there been prompt and proper evacuation.
Tribeni Nayak (65), wife of Raghunath Nayak of Sastri Nagar in Ganjam district, was due to be discharged from the Sum Hospital on Tuesday.
"We were supposed to take back her today as her condition had improved. But, we are now told to take her body," said one of her relatives.
Similar was the case of Padmini Dehury of Kenojhar.
"Her condition had improved a lot and we were supposed to take her back home today. But, the we are taking back her body," said her father Umakanta Dehury.
Anil Patra of Khurda, whose mother Rajani Patra (46) died in the fire, blamed it on the mismanagement in evacuation.
"The hospital staff and security personnel who were supposed to ensure a smooth evacuation had no coordination leading to a chaotic situation. This delayed the process. As a result, people died," Anil said.
P Saroj of Ganjam district said that he had to search his mother Kalyani (76) in four nearby hospitals before finding her lying dead at AMRI hospital.
"I was almost mad in the search for my mother and ran helter and skelter in different hospitals to locate her. My mother had almost recovered. The doctors had said she would be discharged in two-days," Saroj said.