Probe launched after fire at hospital kills at least 11 COVID-19 patients

Probe launched after fire at hospital kills at least 11 COVID-19 patients

Probe launched after fire at hospital kills at least 11 COVID-19 patients

An investigation has been launched into a fire at a private hospital in the southeastern province of Gaziantep that killed at least 11 patients in a COVID-19 intensive care unit.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the fire that occurred on Dec. 19 was caused by a high-flow oxygen therapy machine used to treat coronavirus patients.

Koca and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül travelled to Gaziantep and visited the hospital.

“A thorough probe will be carried out to investigate all the aspects of the incident, including any possible negligence,” Gül told reporters after a visit to the facility.

Two prosecutors along with an expert committee are looking into the cause of the fire, according to the Gaziantep prosecutor’s office.

The incident took place at 4.45 a.m. local time on Dec. 19 in the COVID-19 ICU at SANKO University Hospital.

Police and fire teams were dispatched to the scene. The fire was quickly contained.

According to Koca, there were 19 patients in the COVID-19 unit, which had the capacity to accommodate a total of 20.

“Seven of those in the ICU lost their lives at the time of the incident,” the minister said.

Other patients were transferred to other hospitals.

“I assure the public that we will do what is needed to be done if we find that there was any failure, flaw or negligence,” Koca said.

Over 50 people, including doctors, medical personnel and security guards, were affected by the fire while trying to transfer patients from the scene during the incident, and 10 staffers were in oxygen therapy, the hospital said in a statement.

Two days prior to the incident in Gaziantep, the Health Ministry had warned hospitals across the country regarding possible risks from oxygen machines used in ICUs, daily Hürriyet reported.

In a memo dated back on Dec. 17, the ministry said it had been informed of some incidents in which machines were catching fire.

If the oxygen tank is not properly attached, fires could occur, the ministry said.

“Those machines have been used extensively since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. The heavy work in ICUs has brought along some risks. There are certain rules to be followed in those units and the Health Ministry conducts regular checks on ICUs,” Professor İsmail Cinel, the head of the Turkish Society of Intensive Care, told Hürriyet.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan extended condolences to those who lost their loved ones in the fire in the Gaziantep hospital.

Vice President Fuat Oktay and Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop also expressed sympathy with the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), also expressed his sorrow over the incident.