Jordan health minister resigns after oxygen outage kills patients

Anger in Jordan as several COVID-19 patients die when their oxygen supply runs out at a government hospital.

People gather outside the government hospital in the city of al-Salt [Muath Freij/Reuters]

Jordan’s health minister has resigned amid growing anger after several COVID-19 patients died at a hospital when their oxygen supply ran out.

State media on Saturday reported at least seven deaths at the government hospital in the town of al-Salt, some 20 kilometres (13 miles) north of the capital, Amman.

Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh ordered an investigation, while King Abdullah II arrived at the hospital to help calm angry families who had gathered outside.

Denouncing the incident, the king also ordered the hospital’s director suspended, according to al-Mamlaka TV.

In video footage that circulated online, the king is heard saying to the hospital director: “How could such a thing happen. This is unacceptable.”

Al Jazeera’s Hassan Shoubaki, reporting from al-Salt, said the king was accompanied by the crown prince during his visit to the hospital, where the pair “listened to what happened”.

“King Abdullah … was angry and he said things cannot be dealt with this way,” Shoubaki said.

About 150 relatives of the patients had gathered outside the facility, which was surrounded by a large deployment of police and security officers, who prevented the families from entering.

According to Shoubaki, the number of people gathering outside of the facility is increasing.

During a news conference, Health Minister Nathir Obeidat said he “bears all moral responsibility for the incident that took place at the al-Salt hospital”, adding that the issue has now been resolved and that patients at the hospital are receiving oxygen.

‘Clear carelessness’

Medical sources told Al Jazeera the oxygen cut started from 6am and lasted until 8am, which prompted the hospital administration to seek help from ambulances and civil defence teams.

The oxygen failure hit the intensive care, maternity and coronavirus wards in the hospital. Witnesses said when the oxygen ran out, they were forced to do Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on their own family members to try and keep them alive.

“My father and my mother are in the coronavirus isolation zone inside the hospital – and I was by coincidence inside when suddenly the oxygen was cut,” said Fares Kharabsha, the son of two coronavirus patients.

“When we asked staff, they said we ran out of oxygen and that they’re waiting for an oxygen truck to supply the hospital.

“We received assistance from the civil defence, some of them were inside the hospital, and they provided oxygen cylinders and they started to resuscitate patients, among them my parents.”


The deaths come as the daily virus caseload in Jordan has surged in recent weeks, prompting authorities to reimpose restrictions, including an all-day curfew on Fridays, the day of rest and prayer.

The country has reported more than 465,000 cases and some 5,200 deaths during the pandemic.

It launched its vaccination drive in mid-January with plans to inoculate more than four million residents in 2021.

On Friday, Jordan received 144,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine delivered through the global COVAX initiative, which aims to share COVID-19 jabs with more than 90 lower- and middle-income nations.

The European Union has allocated eight million euros ($9.6m) to support Jordan’s purchase of vaccines. A second shipment from COVAX is expected in April.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies