A fire at a hospital treating COVID-19 patients in Romania has killed at least 10 people, according to authorities.
The blaze on Saturday spread through the intensive care ward designated for coronavirus patients at the public hospital in the city of Piatra Neamt, said Irina Popa, the spokeswoman for the local Emergency Situations Inspectorate.
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Seven other people suffered severe burns where a total of 16 COVID-19 patients were on artificial ventilation.
Health Minister Nelu Tataru told local media the fire was “most likely triggered by a short circuit”.
News outlets reported that the Piatra Neamt Regional Emergency Hospital has long been poorly managed, with eight government-appointed managers overseeing the facility in the past year.
The hospital’s current manager, Lucian Micu, was appointed just three weeks ago after his predecessor resigned over the poor treatment of patients. The resignation followed media reports of patients, including many suspected to have COVID-19, being forced to wait outside in the cold to see a doctor.
Micu said on Saturday that a doctor on duty tried to save the patients from the flames and was in critical condition with first- and second-degree burns covering 80 percent of his body.
Piatra Neamt is located about 353km (219 miles) north of Romania’s capital, Bucharest.
To date, Romania has registered more than 353,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 9,000 related deaths.
Largely spared when the first wave of the coronavirus hit Europe, Romania has in recent weeks seen mounting numbers of cases and hospitalisations.
The country of 19 million residents is one of the poorest in the European Union. Its dilapidated health system suffers from a severe shortage of doctors, especially in small towns.