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Romania hospital fire leaves at least nine people dead

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Third hospital fire in less than a year for Balkan state

Emergency responders depart the intensive care unit of fire-struck hospital

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At least nine people have died after a fire in a hospital in Romania, the third within a year.

All other patients were evacuated from the Hospital for Infectious Diseases in the port city of Constanta and the fire was extinguished by mid-morning on Friday, Romania’s emergency situations inspectorate said.

There were 113 patients were in the medical unit of the hospital, 10 of whom were intensive care unit patients, according to the Romanian health ministry.

Romania, an EU country of 19 million, has had two other deadly hospital fires within a year, raising concerns about the country’s ageing hospital infrastructure.

Last November, 10 people died after a fire in an intensive care unit for Covid-19 patients in the northern town of Piatra Neamt.

Another fire in January killed five people at Matei Bals hospital in Bucharest, the capital. Supplemental oxygen was present on both of the wards. Authorities said there would have been an explosion at Matei Bals had a nurse not stopped the oxygen supply.

After the last fire, president Klaus Iohannis called for urgent and “profound” reform. He said tragedies like it “must not happen again”.

A hospital worker checks on evacuated patients

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A hospital worker checks on evacuated patients

(AFP/Getty)

Romania’s healthcare system has long been under pressure, dogged by corruption and inefficiencies. It has the lowest health budget in the EU both by per capita spending and as a proportion of GDP (5 per cent to a 9.8 per cent bloc-wide average).

Only one hospital has been built by the state in the last three decades. One in four Romanians has insufficient access to essential healthcare and tens of thousands of doctors and nurses have left for other countries.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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