Kolkata's AMRI hospital disaster to tarnish India's image as medical tourism hub

The shocking lapse in safety procedures at the AMRI hospital in Kolkata, which led to the death of 91 patients in a major fire on Friday, is raising concerns about India's reputation as a hub for medical tourism.

The toll in the fire, the worst in a hospital in India, rose to 91 on Saturday. Relatives of many of the victims blamed the private hospital for the absence of safety measures, including emergency exits or functional fire alarms.

Most of the victims died in their beds, unable to escape the inferno that raged for hours. Residents living in the neighbourhood accused the security-men of not taking any measures to control the fire and of even preventing others from rushing to the rescue of the hapless patients.

A local court in Kolkata remanded six of the hospital directors, charged with culpable homicide, to 10 days custody. A seventh director, also arrested, got himself admitted to a local hospital, claiming he was unwell.

Local authorities had warned the hospital – which a magazine had recently rated as one of the best in the city – for the lack of safety features. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee – who is also in-charge of the health portfolio – described the lapse as a criminal offence.

The hospital also did not have adequate fire-fighting equipment, according to the police. Worse, what has shocked relatives of the victims is the fact that most of the medical staff abandoned the patients, leaving them to their fate.