BAGHDAD (AP) – The Iraqi Minister of Health resigned on Tuesday more than a week after a deadly fire killed dozens of people in a Baghdad hospital for patients with COVID-19 which officials say were caused by negligence.
The Iraqi prime minister has approved the resignation request submitted by Health Minister Hasan al-Tamimi, according to a statement from his office.
The resignation came shortly after Cabinet voted on the recommendations of an investigative committee that probed the catastrophic fire at Ibn al-Khatib hospital. The blaze, which broke out on April 24 and raged for hours, killed 82 people and injured more than 100, according to the Interior Ministry.
Cabinet members approved recommendations for disciplinary action against the hospital director and administrative assistant, relieving them of their duties. They also approved a recommendation to lift the suspensions of al-Tamimi and the governor of Baghdad.
The Minister of Health resigned despite the vote.
It is unclear what impact al-Tamimi’s departure will have on the Health Ministry’s pandemic response policies as Iraq grapples with a severe new wave of coronavirus. Iraq recorded 6,100 new cases of the virus on Tuesday. More than 15,000 people have died out of 108,000 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
Officials said the fire was started by the explosion of oxygen cylinders. Speculation has become endemic on what made them explode.
Doctors have warned of systemic mismanagement of the healthcare system, describing Iraqi hospitals as time bombs due to lax safety regulations, especially around oxygen cylinders. They say hospitals often lack smoke detectors and visitors regularly smoke cigarettes around oxygen cylinders or bring electric stoves to cook for patients.
The investigation committee did not shed light on the cause of the explosion.