Transition of Thoughts

Weaving thoughts into words

26/11 at Taj vs AMRI hospital at Kolkata – How are they similar but different?

When an Indian is reminded about the date – 26/11, all he can think of is terror, bomb blasts, attacks, death, blood, gore, disaster everything that could spoil the happiness of a human being. It is synonymous with one of the worst periods of our times when everyone across the nation especially Mumbai and the Taj had to go through hours of hell. On the other hand, the AMRI hospital tragedy today at Kolkata is another addition to the growing list of incidents which makes you think that human life in this country has no value at all.

But why am I linking the two incidents as different as chalk and cheese? An incident which was the result of a terrorist attack and another which was due to a fire can be related? Am I out of my mind? Is it my opinionated mind at work? Whatever you think, there is a small similarity but a small difference!!

The attack on the Taj hotel was an attack on the heart of the country. It was an attack where death saw you on the face as terrorist after terrorist opened fire on innocent lives. In such a situation, all the employees of the Taj did what they were taught – The guest’s life and security comes above everything else. In such a scenario be it at the Wasabi restaurant or other parts of the hotel, the employees ensured that they got as many people to safety as they could. Karambir Singh Kang, the General Manager managed to save his guests but the same couldn’t be said about his own family.

A joint venture between Emami and Shrachi groups, the AMRI hospital has 6 branches in West Bengal and another 6 in Bangladesh. There are so many of us who keep cribbing about the fact the government doesn’t know how to run hospitals. So obviously with two groups involved, you would expect a private hospital to be really well run. Right?

But then with more than 80 people dying, fire safety equipment reportedly not working, guards not letting relatives in despite knowing that the fire was spreading thick and fast, the administration informing the fire engines hours after the fire started, things surely don’t seem to be right, do they? There are reports that 2 nurses died (PK Vineetha and Ramya Rajan) and the Hindu newspaper article says that they saved 9 patients themselves. Kudos to them that they had the guts to do something right when the entire administration apparatus crumbled in spectacular fashion!!

But then the good part ends there. There are complaints that patients who couldn’t move, stand etc. weren’t helped. There are complaints that the authorities were telling the patients that its a minor fire. There are complaints that the doctors switched off their mobile phones and ran away. A rumour hungry media spreading false rumours when the top 6 honchos of the hospital itself have courted arrest? And then despite being reminded zillions of times that highly flammable materials need to be removed from the area meant for the car park, they bought more time and the end result was disaster.

The Taj employees and the administration knew that death wasn’t slow. It was straight in your face. They didn’t even have any time to react. They had to think on the spot and come up with a solution to save the lives of their guests. And they did it much more effectively than anyone could imagine. One of the highlights was the fact that they formed a chain of human shields to guard their guests.The end result – just 31 people lost their lives and 28 were injured.

At the AMRI hospital, death was slowly coming in the sense that there were hours on end for people to be rescued. It wasn’t as if the fire spread immediately. Some say it started at 2am while others say it started at 1am. The fact is that fire engines were called an hour or so later. So what was happening in between? Why did half of the patients die in the entire hospital? (more than 80 out of 160).

At the Taj, the employees were taught that they were ambassadors of the company and also that the customer was their everything. But sadly at AMRI hospital, it seems as though the safety of their patients was the last thing on their minds.

Similar incidents but different reactions! That’s why one would say there’s such a world of difference in terms of patient (customer) care between the healthcare industry and the hotel industry!

Last word – One of my friends just said asked me how can I quantify human life by saying why only 2 nurses died at AMRI and it was the mistake of higher ups and how can I compare two tragedies like these.

My only point is where were the doctors when the entire thing was going on? And it can never be a mistake of few people but like in a team, each and every member is equally responsible. And the fact is that if such training to save people in emergency situations is given only in the hospitality industry or aircrashes etc, then its outrageous. How can you not train your personnel in a hospital to protect your patients in emergencies??? :O

Some people ask how can I compare the hospitality industry which caters to the elite to the healthcare industry which caters to the masses. The point here is not whose catered but whose actually taught what they should be.

And I daresay not, the 80 odd souls will be forgotten in history in a couple of days and things would continue as they have been over the years.


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  1. mahendra

    Very well written. Toll in taj would have been easily in 100s had it not been for the heroics of staff.
    Here at AMRI, It was pure negligence and considering the fact that similar incident happened in 2008 in the same hospital, it is unpardonable. Even capital punishment to all the responsible people would not do any justice to the severity of this atrocity!

    • aseemrastogi2

      I wish Mahendra they would convict such people, capital punishment though is a pretty far fetched idea. Wonder how many AMRI hospitals are present across the nation who care the least about patient safety.

  2. Please read it carefully

    • aseemrastogi2

      Lipika, I didn’t get what were you trying to mean by reading it carefully.

  3. Thank you for the special mention Aseem 🙂
    I still believe in what I said but I will repeat it for your readers. There is a difference between hospitality industry and hospitals! Hospitality industry professionals are trained for such situations while doctors and nurses are not. Safety wasn’t the last thing in their minds but they are trained to save people from deadly diseases and not from infernos. Yes, humanity calls for their actions to be different, but then its a moral issue and no one can be blamed for saving their lives over others in such situations. It’s basic human tendency and not everyone wants to be a hero.
    Unless you are suggesting, such a training for all doctors and nurses after this incident, along with their 6-10 years of rigorous academic curriculum, the comparison is unfair and opinionated.

    • aseemrastogi2

      You are welcome :). By your statement “Not everyone wants to be a hero”, then does everyone in the hospitality industry want to be a hero and that’s why they are trained? Not that I think so. I never felt that the doctors should have jumped into the fire themselves. But there were basic things which the patients expected the doctors to be provide. No one expected them to just not be available except obviously a few nurses who did save a number of lives. This is not about just training. It’s about trying to save people and being there. Obviously if you know you can’t do anything, then you can as well get out of the way knowing that things are bad and feel helpless about it. But things like when the fire chief said that patients informed them about the fire and not the hospital authorities or doctors whoever saw it are what make this really sad.

      And anyways training docs to tackle fires shouldn’t be such a big thing. I am not asking to train them for years because its not some great course. Training them means involving them in using basic fire equipment and things of that sort. And anyways today everyone should know this, we students are also trained in this at some point, aren’t we? And anyways the fact that they aren’t trained isn’t there mistake, yes I agree.

      No one wanted anyone to be a hero. People just expected support and some alertness. Half the patients in a hospital don’t just die like that. And again I said, its not that the docs alone are blamed, everyone is involved. In a team you don’t just blame the captain but all the players. Even in Taj, from the GM till the smallest guy was involved in whatever way.

      As far as the comparison being unfair and opinionated goes, its your opinion. I understand that you don’t agree with it. No issues :).

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