Iraq’s Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi stepped down on Tuesday after a blaze from an exploding oxygen tank at a Baghdad COVID-19 hospital last month claimed more than 80 lives, the government said in a statement.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government also ordered the dismissal of Ibn Khatib hospital’s director and other top officials at the hospital. The entire hospital had been converted to treat patients infected with the coronavirus.
The massive fire which broke out on April 24 shed light on the neglect of a healthcare system that was once one of the best in the Middle East, but has been wrecked by rampant state-wide corruption, conflict, international sanctions and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Tamimi had been suspended immediately after the blaze. The cabinet lifted his suspension on Tuesday but he immediately resigned.
In the wake of the mishap, the Iraqi government has ordered hospitals across the country to review and enforce better health and safety measures.
The incident further eroded Iraqis’ trust in their healthcare system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that lack of trust has meant many do not seek medical help when infected with the virus, and have decided not to get inoculated at state-run medical centers.