Infant dies as incubator catches fire in Karachi children's hospital

Published January 9, 2020
According to police, the fire was caused by a short-circuit in the incubator, located on the second floor of the hospital’s surgical ward. — Zeenat Khan/File
According to police, the fire was caused by a short-circuit in the incubator, located on the second floor of the hospital’s surgical ward. — Zeenat Khan/File

A newborn girl died when an incubator caught fire at Karachi's National Institute of Child Health — the largest children’s hospital in Sindh — early on Thursday morning.

Saddar SHO Arshad Afridi told Dawn that they were not informed by the hospital administration about the fire incident. He added, however, that they had conducted a preliminary probe and found that the fire was caused by a short-circuit in the incubator, located on the second floor of the hospital’s surgical ward.

The SHO confirmed that a two-day-old girl was killed as a result of the fire. The victim’s family took away the body, without letting the police complete medico-legal formalities, he said. A fire brigade official told Dawn that they too had not been informed about the incident.

Another senior police officer said the baby died due to suffocation/smoke inhalation after the incubator caught fire due to an electrical fault or short circuit.

He quoted the hospital authorities as saying that an internal inquiry into the incident is being conducted.

For his part, NICH executive director Dr Jamal Raza told Dawn that “malfunction of equipment possibly led to an incident of fire in the surgical ward”.

Dr Raza added that “the fire was controlled swiftly with an extinguisher and patients were evacuated. However, the baby in the incubator could not survive.”

Later in the day, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah took notice of the incident and sought a report from the facility’s executive director.

Shah also expressed regret over the infant’s death and directed the hospital administration to take necessary measures to avoid such incidents in the future, the chief minister’s spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Sindh health department has constituted an inquiry committee to probe the incident.

The committee will be headed by the administration special secretary and comprise Dr Sikandar Memon, the programme manager of Sindh HIV/AIDS Control Programme, Dr Zulfiqar, director of the Electro-Medical Workshop, Jamshoro and Dr Rubina, Additional Medical Superintendent of Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, according to the notification.

The committee has been directed to furnish its report within three days.

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