Jordan court jails health officials over COVID-19 oxygen deaths

Politicians and local activists say the incident that led to 10 deaths exposed gross negligence in the state health system.

In this file photo from March, people gather outside the new Salt government hospital [File: Muath Freij/Reuters]

A Jordanian court has sentenced five senior health officials to three years in jail for causing the death of 10 COVID-19 patients following an oxygen outage in a big state hospital, state media reported.

The court on Sunday found Abdel Razak al-Khashman, the former director of the state hospital and four of his senior aides responsible for the deaths, the media said.

The patients, who were being treated in the hospital in Salt, a city west of the capital Amman, died in March when staff failed to act after oxygen ran out in a COVID-19 ward for nearly an hour.

The verdict can be appealed within 10 days, the AFP news agency reported.

The disaster, which politicians and local activists said exposed gross negligence in the state health system during a spike in COVID-19 infections, sparked anti-government protests across many cities and provincial towns.

Health Minister Nathir Obeidat resigned hours after the incident and in a public apology, Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh said his government bore full responsibility for the incident.

Shortly after the deaths, King Abdullah II visited the hospital and publicly scolded health officials in the corridor of the hospital, where police were deployed to hold back hundreds of angry relatives and protesters who were encircling the compound.

The royal visit was intended to defuse tensions in a country where anger with the authorities has in the past triggered widespread civil unrest.

Since the incident, the authorities have dismissed dozens of officials in state hospitals in a campaign to curb mismanagement and perceived corruption.

Authorities have poured tens of millions of dollars to train and recruit health workers in state hospitals that face shortages of qualified staff.

Source: News Agencies