Vijayawada: The Governorpet police in Vijayawada city police commissionerate formed a special team on 11 August to catch Dr. Potineni Ramesh, the absconding owner of Ramesh Hospitals. Ten people died when a fire broke out at the hospital's makeshift COVID-19 care facility in Vijayawada's Swarna Palace Hotel on Sunday.

The police raided Dr. Ramesh's home and hospital and seized some documents. However, the doctor has been absconding and his mobile phone is also switched off. Since he was the head of the hospital, his role in the mishap is being investigated, the police said.

The police also arrested three staff members of the hospital, including Dr. Rajagopal Rao, the chief operating officer of the hospital who had secured permission from the district medical and health officer (DMHO) for the COVID-19 care centre. The other two arrested are Dr. K Sudarshan, the general manager of the hospital who was in charge of the COVID facility, and the night manager P. Venkatesh.

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A day after the fire, Dr. Ramesh released a video blaming the hotel management for the mishap. He said a short circuit had caused the mishap and expressed condolences to the families of the victims. He said that in view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the district collector and the DMHO had asked the hospital to admit the patients. “We started treating the patients. We had also applied for two hotels for COVID-19 treating centres. Around 200 patients were treated and discharged. The arrangement was that the hotel would take care of the facility and we would provide medical services,” the doctor said in the video.

The hospital and hotel management have been charged with Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and Section 308 read with 34 of the IPC after a police complaint was lodged by Vijayawada Central tehsildar (revenue officer). The Swarna Palace Hotel has no fire NOC, no emergency equipment, and no fire exit. It is a clear case of culpability, the police said.

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