“All government hospitals in Bengaluru should have a burns ward”: Beyond Carlton

For a population of over one crore, Bengaluru has only two hospitals that have a specialised burns unit. On Saturday, Beyond Carlton collective appealed to the government to set up such units in government hospitals across the state.

It has been a decade since the Carlton Towers fire tragedy on 23 February, 2010. On Saturday, Beyond Carlton, a citizens’ initiative that was formed after the incident, organised a fire safety awareness programme at the National Gallery of Modern Art to pay tribute to the nine lives lost –  Akhil Uday, Benzie Kumar, Fayaz Pasha, Madan Purohit, Rajesh Subramanian, Savitha R, Siddhartha Padam, Sunil Iyer, and Surabhi Joshi.

As part of a series of events to create awareness and prevent fire accidents, we, at Beyond Carlton, had also launched a social media campaign #IamAFireChamp.

On behalf of Beyond Carlton, Uday Vijayan and Vasanthi Hariprakash presented a memorandum to Dr. Ashwath Narayan, Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka. The memorandum said that hospitals in the state should be equipped to deal with burn cases.

Burn victims need specialised care for months, and have very specific hygiene requirements. They may require skin grafting, and this could be very expensive.

In Bengaluru, only two hospitals – Victoria and St John’s – have specialised burns units. For a population of about a crore, this is extremely inadequate. We have requested the state government to ensure that every government hospital in the city and the state be equipped with a burns ward.

India has a high number of deaths caused by burns, and the central government had even released Rs 450 crore to set up burns units in hospitals across the country. But the funds have been inadequately used.

Hence, the memorandum made the following pleas:

  • Mandate all government hospitals in the state to provide burns wards
  • Set up skin banks across the state
  • Utilise the budget provided by the central government for setting up burns units
  • Formulate a training programme for healthcare providers to treat burn injuries

Dr Ashwath Narayan gave us immediate assurance that the state government would take necessary steps to meet these objectives.

Below is a copy of the memorandum.

Memorandum presented to Dr Ashwath Narayan

Founded in the aftermath of the fire that broke out in the Carlton Towers Building, Domlur, ‘Beyond Carlton’ is a registered public charitable trust whose objective is to advocate and promote a culture of fire safety in the country. As part of our first initiative, we successfully petitioned the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court in WP 39874/2013 for guidelines for enforcement of fire safety regulations in the state. This resulted in the issuance of a notification dated 7 July, 2011, for inspection of buildings to monitor compliance of fire safety regulations.

Subsequently, we have been actively organising lectures and programmes on fire safety in the country. We remain committed to the cause of addressing fire safety concerns to prevent loss of life due to fire incidents.

That said, we are writing this letter to you to address an urgent and pressing gap in addressing the issue of death due to fire incidents, that is, the establishment of burns units in government hospitals in the state. We have reliably learnt that the central government has formulated the National Programme for Prevention and Management of Burn Injuries (NPPMBI) to establish burns units in government hospitals across the country. And to this end, a budget of Rs 450 crore was earmarked as part of the 12th Five-Year Plan.

We are also given to believe that while 75% of the cost of setting up such burns units in each state will be borne by the centre, the balance 25% of the cost will be born by the state.

Upon further inquiry to determine the status of the implementation of the NPPMBI, we are heartened to note that in addition to 16 other states, Karnataka has also signed an MoU with the Centre to implement the noble objectives of the NPPMBI.

The unfortunate reality remains that every fifth fire-related death in the world is that of an Indian. Often times, these deaths could have been avoided by ensuring access to focused and specialised healthcare services and skin banks. But due to the lack of subsidised accessible healthcare services for burn injuries, recent fire incidents in the country have led to an alarming number of deaths.

We, therefore, sought clarifications from the central government on the status of the NPPMBI, and learnt that the utilisation certificate for the allocated budget of 450 crores to set up burns units have not been furnished yet. Furthermore, we also learnt that, in Karnataka, under the NPPMBI, only a burns unit in Mysore Medical College and Hospital has been set up in the city of Mysuru.

While we are pleased that Karnataka is one of the few states to set up a one-of-its-kind skin bank, we are also acutely aware that a singular skin bank cannot address the healthcare needs of the entire state. In addition, we also appreciate and remain grateful for the burns unit set up in Victoria Hospital in Bengaluru and the one in Mysuru Medical College and Hospital.

Though it is a step ahead in the right direction, you would appreciate that a burns unit is necessary in government hospitals in every district, if we are to ensure that the number of fire-related deaths reduce.

Your good self has an excellent background in the field of healthcare, and the government – both at the state and the centre – have inspired hope of dynamic and positive changes for the healthcare needs of ordinary people of this country. Therefore, we request you to kindly prepare a roadmap and a plan, and undertake the following:

  1. Setting up a burns unit in every government hospital in the state of Karnataka; and directing that every private hospital in the state should have a dedicated burns unit to provide emergency care for burn injuries.
  1. Set up skin banks across the state to assist in the treatment of serious burn injuries.
  1. Expedite the utilisation of NPMMBI budget for setting up burns units in the state.
  1. Formulate a training programme for healthcare professionals to treat burn injuries; ensure the availability of such professionals across the state.

The Constitution of India guarantees all of us the right to bodily autonomy and bodily integrity as well as the right to health, as part of the Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life and personal liberty). We believe that if the above infrastructure and resources are allocated for treating burn injuries, Karnataka would take a significant step forward in ensuring that people of this state can truly realise these fundamental rights.

Beyond Carlton remains ready and willing to assist the government in implementing these programmes. We, therefore, request you to kindly facilitate and expedite these reforms and do the needful and oblige.

[Note: The memorandum has been published with minor edits.]

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