Fire at Romanian Covid-19 hospital kills seven people

Locals sit in a tent to be monitored after receiving their first dose of the Covid-19 Moderna vaccine near Bucharest, Romania, on 21 April 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE / ROBERT GHEMENT)

BUCHAREST, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Seven people died on Friday when a fire broke out in a Romanian intensive care unit treating Covid-19 patients, officials said, the country's third deadly hospital fire in less than a year.

Video footage showed patients jumping out of windows from the hospital’s lower levels and firefighters carrying people out.

The country’s emergency response unit had initially said nine people had died, but Transport Minister Lucian Bode later said there had been a miscommunication between firefighters and hospital staff.

Firefighters extinguished the fire at the hospital in the eastern city of Constanta at around 0755 GMT, having brought in additional teams from nearby counties.

Enraged relatives of the patients gathered outside the hospital in protest and prosecutors have opened an investigation into the causes of the fire.

In February, a fire killed four patients at a COVID-19 hospital in the capital Bucharest. Last November 10 people died in an intensive care unit at the Piatra Neamt county hospital.

“I am appalled at the tragedy,” President Klaus Iohannis said in a statement. “It is a new terrible drama which confirms the lacking infrastructure of Romania’s healthcare system, placed under unimaginable pressure by the fourth wave of the pandemic.”

There were more than 12,500 COVID-19 patients, including 373 children, being treated in Romanian hospitals on Friday, including 1,391 in intensive care units.

The number of new COVID-19 infections in Romania reached 10,887 on Friday, and intensive care units across the country were running out of space. Romania has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the 27-nation European Union.

Even before the pandemic, Romania’s health care system had been under pressure, dogged by corruption, inefficiencies and politicised management. The country has one of the EU’s least developed healthcare infrastructures.

The state has built one hospital in the last three decades, spends the least on healthcare in the EU and tens of thousands of doctors and nurses have emigrated. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie Editing by Gareth Jones and Toby Chopra)


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  • Max Hutchinson says:

    While recognising its faults, we should perhaps beware of simply blaming a particular governmental system for tragedies of this nature. Worldwide, the Covid-19 contagion placed medical facilties under sudden, tremendous and unusual pressure to accommodate thousands of patients. This necessitated the erection of temporary medical facilities (including tents) while re-engineering others. My concern lies in the nature of these temporary hospitals and alterations; the designs, the materials used and the installed services. Imagine, if you wish, combustible construction materials in their most exposed form, both for ignition and for fire propagation, not to mention the toxic by-products of combustion. Imagine the rate of burning when a fire occurs in oxygen-rich atmospheres, including when oxygen and other piped gas lines fail or collapse. Imagine exhausted medical staff choosing, then physically having to evacuate bed-ridden patients from isolation facilities through narrow corridors and exits and into inadequate (and safe) landing areas. Design also speaks to fire compartmentation and fire ventilation, to lighting, escape routes, to fire exits and to specific fire fighting equipment. It also speaks to evacuation planning, methods and equipment. There are too many other matters that must also be considered. I’m not entirely confident that (temporary and re-engineered) medical facilities across the world would fully meet the litmus test in the event of a fire.

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