Fire at COVID-19 hospital in Romania kills five patients

January 29, 2021 12:58 AM EST

General view at the site of COVID-19 hospital Matei Bals, where a fire occurred in one of its buildings, in Bucharest, Romania January 29, 2021. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/via REUTERS


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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - A fire killed five patients at a COVID-19 hospital in the Romanian capital Bucharest on Friday and 102 others were evacuated, officials said, the second deadly hospital fire in the country in under three months.

The fire, which has since been extinguished, broke out at around 0300 GMT in one of the buildings of the Matei Bals hospital. Four rooms were affected.

Three victims died on the scene, a fourth during resuscitation, while a fifth was later found in a bathroom, officials said. Prosecutors were investigating the cause of the fire.

The building where the blaze broke out was built in 1953 and had been completely renovated, its manager said. Matei Bals is one of the largest and most used COVID-19 hospitals in Romania.

The evacuated patients had medium to serious COVID-19 infections and most were using oxygen, the hospital's manager said. They were re-located to other COVID-19 hospitals across Bucharest or to other buildings at Matei Bals.

Nearly 7,700 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals across Romania as of Friday, including 989 in intensive care units. The country has reported 721,513 coronavirus cases and 18,105 deaths.

"Before we talk about the overall healthcare system we must first learn what happened here tonight," Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu said.

"The reality is that the state of an overwhelming majority of our hospitals is simply the result of chronic underfunding and opaque acquisitions which led to a long string of improvisations."

Even before the pandemic, Romania's health care system had been under pressure, dogged by corruption and inefficiencies. 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 European Union and tens of thousands of doctors and nurses have emigrated.

In November, a fire at the intensive care unit of the Piatra Neamt county hospital killed ten people, one in a series of hospital accidents.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Tattersall)



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