Geneva - Fire breakout at Al-Hussein Hospital in Dhi Qar Governorate, southern Iraq, is an inevitable result of the government's neglect of fundamental reforms in the health sector, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said today in a statement.
About 80 Iraqis died and dozens of others were injured yesterday evening as a result of a fire that destroyed 20 caravans at the Al-Naqa Center at the Imam Hussein Educational Hospital allocated for treating COVID-19 patients in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
Photos and videos, seen by Euro-Med Monitor team, published by Iraqi activists showed dozens of charred corpses piled up at the site of the fire. The videos also show the delay in the arrival of medical teams to the place as many of the injured were transported in private vehicles to nearby hospitals before the arrival of any ambulances.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health said that “poor handling of oxygen cylinders caused the fire.”
The incident comes less than three months after a similar incident at the Ibn Al-Khatib hospital in Baghdad in which 82 Iraqis lost their lives. This tells much about the extent of the government's negligence and lack of seriousness in taking decisive measures to protect the lives of citizens and prevent similar catastrophes.
The Iraqi government only took non-deterrent measures that included the dismissal of a number of officials and the issuance of protocol circulars. The government did not make any real efforts to follow up on the causes and effects of the incident nor did it take practical steps that would prevent similar incidents, including assessing the readiness of all state agencies to respond to this type of accidents.
Omar Al-Ajlouni, legal researcher at the Euro-Med Monitor, said “It is unfortunate that hospitals and medical centers are no longer places where Iraqis can have a better health and preserve their lives, but rather turned into deadly places where they might lose their lives. Iraqis deserve to enjoy safe and stable health services free from dangers and tragic accidents”.
“What is required is not only the accountability of those directly responsible for the incident, but also a comprehensive campaign to combat corruption and negligence, in various government sectors, especially the health sector,” he added.
The Iraqi government is obligated to provide health care to citizens within a safe and secure environment. Article 31 of the Iraqi constitution states that “Every citizen has the right to health care. The State shall maintain public health and provide the means of prevention and treatment by building different types of hospitals and health institutions”.
The Iraqi government should open a transparent investigation into the Al-Hussein Hospital fire incident, hold accountable those responsible for negligence in taking safety measures to ensure justice for the victims, compensate the victims and their families, and provide full medical care for all the injured.
The Iraqi government should also assess the safety procedures at all hospitals and health centers in the country; ensure hospitals are provided with the necessary equipment including sensor systems and alarms to ensure that the incident does not recur; and maintain the safety of medical personnel, patients and health facilities.