A fire at a hospital in Romania has killed seven people, according to local authorities, marking the third deadly incident at healthcare facilities in the country in less than a year.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze at the hospital in the southeastern port city of Constanta shortly before 11am local time (08:00 GMT) on Friday, having brought in additional teams from nearby counties. The cause of the fire is not yet known.
Video footage showed patients jumping out of windows from the hospital’s lower levels and firefighters carrying people out.
Interim Health Minister Cseke Attila said 113 patients were in the hospital at the time of the fire, including 10 in the intensive care unit. All the survivors have now been evacuated.
The country’s emergency response unit had initially said nine people had died, but Transport Minister Lucian Bode later said there had been a miscommunication between firefighters and hospital staff.
“I am appalled at the tragedy,” President Klaus Iohannis said in a statement. “It is a new terrible drama which confirms the lacking infrastructure of Romania’s healthcare system, placed under unimaginable pressure by the fourth wave of the [COVID-19] pandemic.”
Romania, a European Union country of 19 million people, has experienced two other deadly hospital fires in the past 12 months, raising concerns about its healthcare facilities against the backdrop of the pandemic.
In January, a fire killed five patients at a COVID-19 hospital in the capital, Bucharest. Two months earlier, 10 people died in a blaze at an intensive care unit at the northeastern Piatra Neamt county hospital.
Even before the pandemic, Romania’s healthcare system had been under pressure, dogged by alleged corruption, inefficiencies and politicised management.
The country has one of the European Union’s least developed healthcare infrastructures.
The state has built one hospital in the last three decades, spends the least on healthcare in the EU and thousands of doctors and nurses have emigrated.
Meanwhile, authorities are grappling with a record surge in COVID-19 infections nationwide. The number of new cases in Romania reached 12,032 on Thursday, a new high. Intensive care units across the country are reportedly running out of space.
Romania has the second-lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the 27-nation EU.