Four dead, dozens evacuated following fire at coronavirus hospital in Romania

General view at the site of COVID-19 hospital Matei Bals, where a fire occurred in one of its buildings, in Bucharest, Romania.

A fire killed four patients at a COVID-19 hospital in the Romanian capital Bucharest early on Friday and 102 others were evacuated, officials said, the second deadly hospital fire in the European Union state 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 and prosecutors were investigating the cause of the fire.

The hospital 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 the country.

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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.

“None of the (evacuated) patients have burns, from the information we currently have,” Deputy Interior Minister in charge of emergency situations Raed Arafat told reporters.

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.

“It is obvious there is a problem,” Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu told private television station Antena 3.

“We are talking about the most-funded institute in the country. It is also the hospital which has treated … a lot of patients, it was used to capacity.”

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.

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 European Union and tens of thousands of doctors and nurses have emigrated.

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