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Jordan court jails health officials over COVID-19 oxygen deaths

·1-min read

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) - A Jordanian court sentenced five senior health officials to three years in jail on Sunday for causing the death of 10 COVID-19 patients following an oxygen outage in a major state hospital, state media said.

The court found the former director of the state hospital in Salt, a city west of the capital, and four of his senior aides responsible for the deaths, the media said. The patients, who were being treated in the hospital, died in March when staff failed to act after oxygen ran out in a COVID-19 ward for nearly an hour.

The disaster, which politicians and local activists said exposed gross negligence in the state health system during a spike in COVID-19 infections, sparked anti-government protests across many cities and provincial towns.

Health Minister Nathir Obeidat resigned hours after the incident and in a public apology, Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh said his government bore full responsibility for the incident.

Shortly after the deaths, King Abdullah visited the hospital and publicly scolded health officials in the corridor of the hospital, where police were deployed to hold back hundreds of angry relatives and protesters who were encircling the compound.

The royal visit was intended to defuse tensions in a country where anger with the authorities has in the past triggered widespread civil unrest.

Since the incident, the authorities have dismissed scores of officials in state hospitals in a campaign to curb mismanagement and perceived corruption.

It has poured tens of millions of dollars to train and recruit health workers in goverment hospitals that face shortages of qualified staff.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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