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Jordan: Health minister submits resignation after Covid-19 patients die of oxygen shortage

An investigation is underway to determine what led to shortage of oxygen in state-run hospital
Jordan's King Abdullah II visiting a room during the inauguration of the health ministry’s Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed field hospital for Covid-19 patients in Aqaba on 24 January 2021 (AFP)

At least eight Covid-19 patients died on Saturday in the state-run al-Salt al-Jadeed hospital after it ran out of oxygen, according to local media, prompting the health minister to submit his resignation. 

According to state-run Al-Mamlaka TV channel, the hospital was also dealing with an unspecified number of critical cases. 

Videos shared on social media showed Jordan's King Abdullah II visiting the hospital amid chants calling for the government to step down. 

Security services cordoned off the hospital after news of a problem with the oxygen cylinders of Covid-19 patients in the hospital's intensive care unit, amid a state of panic among patients and staff, according to Al-Mamlaka.

Prime Minister Bishr al-Khasawneh ordered an immediate investigation into the oxygen failure in the hospital, and stressed that the investigation should be "clear, transparent and comprehensive" so that all its details would be publicly announced.

Khasawneh asked the president of the Judicial Council to conduct an investigation through the public prosecution office, and to issue the results of its investigations independently to ensure their integrity and fairness, according to local media. "Everyone responsible should be held accountable," he said.

Health Minister Nazir Obeidat said on Saturday: "As minister of health, I assume full moral responsibility for what happened, and I have submitted my resignation to the prime minister. So far I have not received a response."

Local media quoted the hospital director, Abdul Razzaq al-Khashman, as saying that the depletion of oxygen was caused by the high consumption of oxygen in the hospital.

He added that there are usually alternative plans in such a case, including supplying the departments with oxygen cylinders from the hospital's oxygen centre.

Oxygen cylinders were provided to all 180 Covid-19 patients in the hospital, Khashman said, in addition to tanks to save the patients.

The daily virus caseload in Jordan has surged in recent weeks, prompting authorities to reimpose restrictions, including an all-day curfew on Fridays, the day of rest and prayer.

Jordan, which began its Covid-19 vaccination drive in January, has recorded more than 460,000 coronavirus cases and over 5,200 deaths since the pandemic started last year.