Hundreds protest in Romania after deadly hospital fire

Hundreds of people protested on Saturday outside Romania's Health Ministry in Bucharest, the day after a fatal fire at one of the country's main hospitals for COVID-19 patients, calling for the resignations of the president, the health minister and the emergencies chief, AP reported.

At least five people died in the fire, which broke out early Friday on the ground floor of the Matei Bals hospital in Bucharest and forced the evacuation of more than 100 people. It was the third hospital fire in Romania in as many months.

The protest was organized by the Alliance for the Unity of Romanians, a right-wing political party established a little over a year ago by leaders who opposed same-sex marriages and have supported Orthodox clerics who defied pandemic restrictions to hold religious ceremonies. “We are out of tears and out of patience after 31 years in which we paid taxes and got nothing in return. Not a single new hospital was built in Romania in 31 years," AUR co-president George Simion said, referring to the time since communism ended. “The money was stolen from the Romanian medical system."

Simion said the party and its supporters “want the resignation of those responsible,” naming Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu and Department of Emergency Situations head Raed Arafat. He said AUR would donate its state financing to go toward the construction of a new hospital.

Protesters at Saturday's demonstration also called for President Klaus Iohannis to resign.

Voiculescu, the health minister, said Saturday that the cause of Friday's fire is not yet known and an investigation is ongoing. The minister agreed that Romania needs to improve its medical infrastructure. “We will build new hospitals,” he said. "There is no magical solution for turning an old building into a new one. We need new hospitals.”

In November a fire in a COVID-19 intensive care unit in north Romania killed 10 people and a fire in a psychiatric hospital in the same region killed one person in December.

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