At a time when fire incidents in Pune are on the rise, there is ironically little or no increase in the number of burns’ wards/facilities across the city.
As per data shared by the Pune Fire Brigade Department, as many as 6,767 fire incidents have been reported from 2016 till date. Of these; 1,073 fire incidents were reported in 2016; 1,058 in 2017; 1,353 in 2018; 975 in 2019; 699 in 2020; 658 in 2021; 694 in 2022; and 257 till the end of March 2023. Officials attribute the drop in fire incidents in 2020 and 2021 largely to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Among public (state/government) health facilities in the city, there are only 20 beds in the burns’ ward of Sassoon General Hospital for critical burn victims. Considering the long stay and longer period required for recovery, these beds remain occupied for a longer period of time, doctors said.
Dr Parag Sahastrabuddhe, head of the plastic surgery department at B J Medical College, said that there are 20 beds for burn patients at Sassoon Hospital and that they are always in demand. “There are patients who come not just from Pune but also from other districts for treatment at our hospital. The patients who come to Sassoon are mostly critical cases with over 40% to 50% burn injuries. Such patients take one to two months for recovery. With advancement in treatment, the overall morbidity among burn patients has decreased,” Dr Sahastrabuddhe said.
Apart from Sassoon General Hospital, the other public hospital in the city for burn patients is Aundh District Hospital. However, it only handles minor burn injury cases while serious burn victims are sent to Sassoon Hospital. Private hospitals too are seeing an increase in burn patients. However, most people cannot afford the longer stay, nutritional support and medication at private hospitals.
Dr H K Sale, president of the Association of Hospitals in Pune, said that a few private hospitals in the city provide basic treatment for burn victims but usually keep patients with higher degree of burn injuries. “Patients with only 20 to 30% burn injuries are handled by private hospitals whereas those with higher degree of burn injuries are referred to Sassoon Hospital. There is no dedicated ward for burn patients at private hospitals, excluding at Surya Sahyadri Hospital. Nearly 90% of patients with higher degree of burn injuries cannot afford private hospitals. Even the remaining 10% patients cannot afford the treatment beyond a few days,” Dr Sale said.
According to Dr Jaisingh Shinde, director of Surya Sahyadri Hospital, the number of burn patients coming to the hospital has increased significantly. “Most of the patients coming to us are children who have suffered burn injuries. After children, those suffering electrocution are coming to us. We have 10 beds reserved for burn victims at the hospital. Nearly 80% of the beds are always occupied. Burn injury patients are emergency patients and cannot be kept waiting,” Dr Shinde said.
Dr Sale said that there is need for a dedicated ward, specially trained staff and specialised doctors for burn patients. The team needs emotional training to handle burn patients. “The medicines, antibiotics and collagen dressing are expensive parts of the treatment,” Dr Sale said.
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in January 2022 had declared plans to set up a specialty department for burn patients at (late) Chandumama Sonawane Hospital. However, the proposal was eventually put on the backburner.
Health activist, Dr Sanjay Dabhade, said that the need of the hour is for the PMC to start a burns ward looking at the rising population of the city. “The ward can be started at any of the PMC-run facilities and should be kept hygienic,” Dr Dabhade said.
Dr Abhijit More, health activist, said that the PMC is starting its medical college and should upgrade other healthcare facilities and hospitals as well. “The PMC should start a burns ward at the Kamla Nehru Hospital. Once the medical college starts, they can shift the ward there. To run this ward, the civic body should appoint specialised staff and make sure that they have a healthy atmosphere to work in. In comparison to the PMC, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is investing a lot of funds in healthcare and doing much more for the citizens of Mumbai,” Dr More said.
Nilesh Mahajan, spokesperson of the Pune Fire Brigade Department, said, “The department conducts regular inspections of buildings and commercial establishments, ensuring that fire safety regulations are followed.” The department has appealed to commercial and private establishments to conduct fire safety audits on time. The department conducts workshops, and teaches children and adults alike about fire prevention, evacuation procedures, and the proper use of fire extinguishers.