The Maharashtra government on Thursday suspended Bhandara district civil surgeon Dr Pramod Khandate and took stringent action against other officials after a fire broke out in the district general hospital and led to the death of 10 infants on January 9, reported The Indian Express. On duty medical officer Dr Archana Meshram and sister in charge Jyoti Bharaskar were also suspended.

“The district civil surgeon and medical officer will remain suspended until the departmental inquiry is over,” Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.

Besides the suspensions, the government terminated the contracts of two staff nurses – Smita Sanjay Ambil Duke and Shubhangi Sathavane – and transferred additional civil surgeon Dr Sunita Bade.

District hospitals in the state will also be subjected to a health audit over the next 15 days, reported India Today. A committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of Health Commissioner Dr Ramaswamy and an action plan will be prepared after receiving his report.

The government’s decision came a day after Nagpur Divisional Commissioner Sanjeev Kumar submitted an inquiry report into the incident to Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas.

The report held Khandate responsible as he was the overall supervisor of the hospital, which lacked proper upkeep. Khandate along with Bade was also responsible for ensuring adequate staff for the hospital.

The report held Meshram and Ambade responsible for not being present at the Sick Newborn Care Unit, even when they were on duty at the time of the incident.

It said that on duty nurses, Duke and Sathavane, were not at their nursing station at time of the fire. Bharaskar was found responsible for not making sure that the nurses were present at the station. Duke and Sathavane had returned to the nursing station after they heard the first explosion in a radiant warmer. By the time they came back, a seven-day-old baby was charred to death.

The fire began in the radiant warmer following a spark. The conductor in the control panel was worn out, the report said. The fire spread through mattresses and plastics in two other warmers. It melted the central oxygen pipe, causing a lot of smoke.

Seven babies in the nursing station died due to smoke inhalation and suffocation. Three babies died due to burn injuries, the forensic report said.

In its report, the committee recommended appointing trained biomedical and electrical engineers to handle equipment in the hospital. Tope said that the recommendation will be implemented.

The health minister also said that CCTV cameras will be installed in hospitals. National Building Code guidelines will be followed for future construction of hospitals and their maintenance, he added.

The report also said that there was a need to have proper coordination between the public works department and the health department to maintain the hospital buildings. “I have written to all district guardian ministers to provide funds from the District Planning and Development Council for audit and repairs in hospitals,” Tope said. “In the coming days, we will see several changes.”