BUCHAREST—Seven people died on Friday when a fire broke out in a Romanian intensive care unit treating COVID-19 patients, officials said, the country’s third deadly hospital fire in less than a year.
Video footage showed patients jumping out of windows from the hospital’s lower levels and firefighters carrying people out.
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.
Firefighters extinguished the fire at the hospital in the eastern city of Constanta at around 07:55 GMT, having brought in additional teams from nearby counties.
Enraged relatives of the patients gathered outside the hospital in protest and prosecutors have opened an investigation into the causes of the fire.
In February, a fire killed four patients at a COVID-19 hospital in the capital Bucharest. Last November 10 people died in an intensive care unit at the Piatra Neamt county hospital.
“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 pandemic.”
There were more than 12,500 COVID-19 patients, including 373 children, being treated in Romanian hospitals on Friday, including 1,391 in intensive care units.
The number of new COVID-19 infections in Romania reached 10,887 on Friday, and intensive care units across the country were running out of space, with a new wave of infections beginning to hit the country.
Even before the pandemic, Romania’s healthcare system had been under pressure, dogged by corruption, inefficiencies, and politicized management. The country has one of the EU’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 tens of thousands of doctors and nurses have emigrated.
Reuters contributed to this report.