Jordanians mourn Covid patients who died in hospital oxygen debacle

Oxygen failure in large government hospital north-west of Amman adds to Jordan’s grim coronavirus toll

Jordanian town mourns after hospital deaths

Jordanian town mourns after hospital deaths
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Two months ago, retired civil servant Mohammad Al Hadidi was admitted by his son to the emergency ward in Al Salt public hospital, in central Jordan, with severe chest pain.

“There was only one doctor, a nurse and no medicine,” he said. With a blank face, he recalled how he survived negligence, only for his son, Youssef, to die for the same reason.

Youssef Al Hadidi, an employee of the health ministry’s contagious diseases department, was among at least eight Covid-19 fatalities linked to an oxygen outage at the hospital at the weekend that has sparked widespread anger, forced out the health minister and led to the intervention of King Abdullah.

“We are paying the price of incompetence,” said Mr Al Hadidi. “We have qualified people in Jordan, but all these employees were hired because of  nepotism."

He watched, with emotionless eyes, as his son’s body was washed and placed in a minivan for burial in the hilly region overlooking the Jordan Valley, 20 kilometres north-west of Amman.

The patients died on Saturday after the hospital’s supply of medical oxygen cut out.

On Sunday, construction work was still being carried out on the large, newly built complex, which is the main government medical centre in Al Salt.

It has a training ward for medical students and is perched on a hill overlooking religious sites in Jordan and the West Bank.

Al Salt has a population of 90,000 and is home to several influential Jordanian clans.

The Royal Palace said the king fired health minister Nazir Obeidat and the hospital manager after the incident.

Video footage of a visit by the monarch to the hospital on Saturday shows him angrily telling the hospital director: “How could such a thing happen? This is unacceptable.”

Jordan's King Abdullah visits hospital where seven died, suspends director

Jordan's King Abdullah visits hospital where seven died, suspends director

Many members of parliament denounced the government but took no specific action.

The Health Committee said the hospital's negligence and corruption were directly to blame.

The hospital's director and four other officials were detained on Sunday in connection with the incident.

On Sunday, the army started sending vehicles equipped to treat Covid-19 patients to the hospital and other government compounds in Jordan, a move intended to reassure people that competent care existed.

The military is also rushing to build an oxygen bottling plant and produce 600 cylinders within three weeks, said Interior Minister Mazen Al Faraya – who has temporarily taken on the responsibility of the health minister.

Most of the 469,000 cases in Jordan were recorded in or after October 2020. The official death toll from the virus is about 5,300 but health officials say the true figure is far higher.

Last week, King Abdullah replaced the interior and justice ministers in response to reports that the two men attended a large banquet at a restaurant in breach of safety rules they were supposed to enforce.

Youssef Al Hadidi was 48. He was buried at the Yusha Prophet cemetery near the hospital and had two sons and a daughter, all in their twenties.

Mourners prayed around his body on Sunday at a mosque adjacent to the burial ground. His turn was preceded by prayers for another man who also died of Covid-19. The body of another coronavirus patient was taken into the mosque after Hadidi’s was taken from it.

Ashraf, one of Youssef Al Hadidi’s sons, said his father initially survived the oxygen cut, which occurred at about 7am.

“By 2pm his breathing got really weak,” he said. He described his father as a “very kind-hearted man” who was admired by all who knew him.

Another mourning family was at the hospital at the same time. They were there to receive the body of Hashem Hammad, who also died after the oxygen shortage.

“His 70th birthday would have been tomorrow,” one relative said, weeping in front of the slender body placed on the floor of the van before it was taken to its final resting place.