Hassan al-Tamimi resigns after the Baghdad COVID hospital fire killed more than 80 people and injured dozens more.
The Iraqi Minister of Health has resigned, 10 days after a fire at a COVID hospital in Baghdad killed more than 80 people.
Hassan al-Tamimi, who joined the government with the backing of powerful Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, resigned on his own, a government statement said on Tuesday.
The fire at Ibn al-Khatib hospital, which left 82 dead and 110 injured, sparked outrage on social media, with a widespread hashtag demanding the dismissal of the Minister of Health.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, a non-partisan independent who regularly reaches out to the Sadrists – the largest parliamentary bloc – has suspended Tamimi in the wake of the fire, along with many other officials. The government lifted the suspension on Tuesday and then resigned.
The fire exposed the neglect of a healthcare system that was once one of the best in the Middle East, but has been torn apart by conflict, international sanctions, the US-led invasion in 2003 and endemic corruption.
The fire broke out in the hours leading up to dawn on April 25, triggered by the explosion of improperly stored oxygen cylinders. Many victims wore ventilators treated for COVID-19 and were burned or suffocated in the resulting hell that quickly spread to the hospital, where dozens of relatives were visiting patients on the unit intensive care.
The results of the investigation into the incident blamed lower-level officials.
The director of Ibn al-Khatib hospital, his administrative assistant, the hospital’s head of civil defense and the head of the health service in eastern Baghdad “have been dismissed from their posts and will be subject to several disciplinary measures, ”the government statement said.
The government has ordered hospitals across the country to review and implement better health and safety procedures.
The incident further eroded the confidence of Iraqis in their health care system. During the coronavirus pandemic, this lack of confidence meant that some did not seek medical help when infected with COVID-19 and decided not to get vaccinated at medical centers run by the State.