World

Fire kills 5 patients at COVID-19 hospital in Romania

A fire killed five patients at a COVID-19 hospital in the Romanian capital of Bucharest early on Friday and 102 others were evacuated from the building, officials said, the second deadly hospital fire in the European Union state in under three months.

Prosecutors are investigating the cause of the fire

The building at the Matei Bals hospital, where the blaze broke out, was built in 1953 and had been completely renovated, its manager said. The hospital is one of the largest and most used COVID-19 hospitals in the country. (Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/Reuters)

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

The fire, which has since been extinguished, broke out around 5 a.m. local time in one of the buildings of the Matei Bals hospital. Four rooms were affected.

Three victims died on the scene, a fourth during resuscitation, and 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. About 44 of them have been sent to other COVID-19 hospitals across Bucharest, and the remaining patients were re-located to other buildings at Matei Bals.

The evacuated patients had medium to serious COVID-19 infections and most were using oxygen, the hospital's manager said. (Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/Reuters)

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.

Previous hospital fire killed 10

"Before we talk about the overall health-care 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 health-care infrastructures.

The state has built one hospital in the last three decades, spends the least on health care 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.

now