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Romania to check all intensive care units after fatal hospital fire

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Romanian officials will check all intensive care units after a fire killed 10 people at a hospital treating coronavirus patients, the government announced.

The fire broke out on Saturday in a room at the intensive care unit of the Piatra Neamt county hospital in northeastern Romania and spread to an adjoining room.

Six other intubated COVID-19 patients were injured and were transferred to another hospital. The doctor on call, who sustained severe burns as he tried to rescue the patients from the flames was flown to a specialised hospital in Belgium early on Sunday.

The government said public health inspectors and the agency for emergency situations would check the conditions under which medical equipment was operating in all intensive care units from Monday.

Prosecutors said an investigation into what triggered Saturday’s fire was underway.

Nearly 13,000 COVID-19 patients were in hospital across Romania as of Sunday, including 1,169 in intensive care units. The country has reported 360,281 coronavirus cases since February and 8,926 deaths.

Even before the pandemic, Romania’s health care system had been under pressure, dogged by corruption, inefficiencies and politicised management.

Romania has one of the European Union’s least developed healthcare infrastructures. One in four Romanians have insufficient access to essential healthcare as tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and pharmacists have left since the country joined the EU in 2007.

On Sunday, the Romanian doctors’ association said a strategy was needed to build new medical infrastructure regardless of who was in government.

“At least now, let’s do things that are organized and planned … so that such tragedies don’t happen again,” it said in a statement.

Saturday’s fire was Romania’s deadliest since 2015, when a night club in the capital Bucharest burned down and 65 people died.

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