3 Covid patients died in “Victor Babes” hospital’s mobile ICU due to oxygen system malfunction

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Three Covid patients have died at the mobile Intensive Care Unit of the ‘Victor Babes’ Hospital in Bucharest on Monday evening, apparently due to the malfunction of the oxygen supply system. The victims are three women aged 84,74 and 63 respectively, as identified by the Police. The bodies went to the National Forensic Medicine for the autopsy.

The Ministry was informed via the Operational Center for Emergency Situations that three patients lost their lives at the mobile Intensive Care Unit run under the coordination of the Interior Ministry’s Department for Emergency Situations, and technically operated by the ‘Victor Babes’ National Institute,” the Health Ministry informed on Monday, also delivering condolences to the victims’ families.

According to the first information sent to the Health Ministry’s Operational Center for Emergency Situations, the oxygen system of the mobile unit malfunctioned.

Another five patients who were also treated at the unit were immediately transferred to other facilities – one to another ward of the ‘Victor Babes’ Hospital, and four to the ROL2 Hospital in Otopeni, the ‘Bagdasar-Arseni’ Emergency Clinical Hospital and the Floreasca Hospital, the Health Ministry said.

In its turn, the Department for Emergency Situations (DSU) announced that the ventilators of the mobile Intensive Care Unit located on the grounds of the ‘Victor Babes’ Bucharest Hospital stopped working due to the rise of the oxygen pressure above the allowed limit; a technical investigation is underway into the causes of the failure.

“The medical staff of the mobile Intensive Care Unit became aware of the concomitant failure of all the ventilators in the container and informed the technical team of the hospital that they have an overpressure alarm, specifically a rise in pressure past 6 bar, the maximum allowed limit for the correct and safe operation of this medical equipment. After checking the oxygen pressure in the mobile unit, the ventilators remained in failure mode. The representative of the ventilator selling company, who arrived at the scene, refused to enter the unit although he was offered complete Covid protective equipment, and eventually left the hospital premises without stepping into the mobile unit,” the Emergency Department said in a statement.

An inquiry is currently underway to determine the causes that led to the increase of the oxygen pressure beyond the maximum admissible limit.

“The inspection of the ventilators, following the breakdown, showed that they stopped working following a registered increase in pressure beyond 6 bar. The unit operates under the joint coordination of the Department for Emergency Situations and of the hospital, and the continuous regulation of the working parameters, of the mobile unit’s oxygen supply system, the monitoring thereof and the technical operation of the facility is done by the technical team of the hospital,” the DSU also says.

Investigators consider wither human error or a technical failure.

Part of the employees who take care of the oxygen system’s maintenance, and the health workers in charge have been heard. Further hearings are on underway.

Later on in a press conference with PM Florn Citu, the head of the Department for Emergency Situations Raed Arafat said that the ICU oxygen pressure increased abruptly at 16:25 hrs, causing the US-manufactured breathing ventilators to shut down for protection. He also explained that the mobile unit’s oxygen supply system was carried out by an authorized company, that there was nothing improvised in the mobile facility which has successfully serviced some 600 – 700 patients in the months since its commissioning. The ordered investigation is to determine the cause for the surge in the oxygen pressure.

In his turn, PM Citu delivered his condolences to the families of the three Covid patients who died earlier in the day at the mobile Intensive Care Unit of the ‘Victor Babes’ Hospital. The premier announced that he asked the Minister of the Interior to initiate a fast investigation into the case for all those who will be found guilty to be held accountable.

“Tragedy hit again in Romania, this time at the ‘Victor Babes’ Hospital, where three people died for reasons still unknown to us at this moment. My condolences to the grieving families. As far as we know till now, it appears to be an accident, but an investigation is underway (…) I asked the Interior Minister to conduct this investigation as fast and transparently as possible, for all the culprits for what happened tonight to be held accountable,” PM Citu said at the Victoria Palace of Government.

He pointed out that amid the was against the Covid pandemic, hospitals and intensive care units in particular are under very high pressure, and therefore the help of all the society’s actors is needed, stressing that vaccination is the only way out of this tough situation.

“We have been caught in a fight and a war with this pandemic for a year now. The pressure on hospitals is very high, the pressure on intensive care units is extremely high. Everybody’s help is needed and that is why we have always said, and especially lately, that the vaccination drive is the only solution, it is very important at this time. The reason why I came out tonight – and this is important – is because I saw that the managers or the state representatives are skirting communication (…) What we know so far: we must no longer run away from communication. We must communicate transparently to Romanians every time,” Citu said.

The head of the Executive also assured that the authorities will further do their best to provide as many intensive care beds as possible, yet he pointed out that there is no guarantee now that such accidents won’t happen again. “In order to reduce the pressure and make sure this doesn’t repeat we need a successful vaccination campaign. They are going hand in hand at this moment,” the Romanian PM concluded.

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