The unthinkable has happened again in a country where patients infected by COVID-19 are dying in a series of astonishing “accidents”.
The deaths of three COVID-19 patients in a hospital in Romania is being treated as a tragic “accident” but questions are being asked given how recently another “accident” cost the lives of 15 others infected with the deadly virus.
The elderly patients suffocated and were pronounced dead on Monday after a malfunction in the oxygen supply system that was keeping them breathing in a Bucharest hospital, according to the country’s emergency situation’s department.
“Ventilators stopped working because the oxygen level rose above the limit”, the department said in a statement, adding that an investigation had been opened into the incident at Victor Babes Hospital.
The patients all went into cardiac arrest and died at the scene.
Five other patients were lucky to survive after their ventilators also failed. In a mad scramble, they were transferred to other hospitals in the capital.
The Prime Minister Florin Citu is fuming at the latest catastrophe to cast a spotlight on his country’s handling of the sick and dying after 15 COVID-19 patients were killed is separate fires in intensive care units in November and January.
The first fire in the northeastern town of Piatra Neamt left 10 COVID-19 patients dead. The second fire in the ICU in Romania’s capital killed five people.
“All those guilty must be held responsible,” Mr Citu said.
“We are at war with this pandemic for more than an year now and the pressure on ICU is immense.”
The fire in November was blamed on an electrical circuit, but investigations are ongoing. Part of the Romanian national prosecutor’s office’s investigation will be examining whether the deaths amount to manslaughter.
The cause of the second fire at Matei Bals hospital for infectious diseases in Bucharest is still under investigation.
The so-called “accidental deaths” are piling pressure on Romania’s leaders to upgrade the country’s healthcare system, one that has been dogged by allegations of corruption and poor management.
Local media reports suggest many suspected to have COVID-19 have been forced to wait outside hospitals in the cold to even be examined by a physician.
AFP reports that Romania’s healthcare system is simply not coping with the third wave of the pandemic.
Intensive care units are stretched to the limit, according to health officials, while the government has pledged to supplement the number of ICU beds.
The silver lining is that new infections are decreasing steadily though numbers remain high. There are more than 4000 new infections each day but at the peak of the country’s pandemic struggle in November there were more than double that number.
According to official numbers kept by Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Romania since the pandemic began last year.
The death toll, which reached a peak at the end of 2020, has climbed above 25,000.
More than 3.5 million people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and almost 1.4 million have been fully vaccinated.
But that is a drop in the ocean — a figure that accounts for just 7 per cent of the population.
— with AFP