Iraq’s health minister resigns over deadly hospital fire

Hassan al-Tamimi steps down after a Baghdad COVID-19 hospital fire killed more than 80 people and wounded dozens of others.

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Ten days after a fire in a Baghdad COVID-19 hospital that killed more than 80 people, the Iraqi health minister has resigned.

Hassan al-Tamimi, who joined the government with the support of powerful Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, stepped down of his own accord, a government statement announced on Tuesday.

The fire at the Ibn al-Khatib hospital, which killed 82 and injured 110, triggered outrage on social media, with a widespread hashtag demanding the health minister be dismissed.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, a non-partisan independent who regularly extends a hand to the Sadrists, the largest parliamentary bloc, suspended al-Tamimi in the wake of the fire, along with many other officials. The government lifted the suspension on Tuesday, after which he then resigned.

The fire highlighted the neglect of a healthcare system that was once one of the best in the Middle East but has been racked by conflict, international sanctions, the US-led invasion in 2003 and rampant corruption.

The blaze at the Ibn al-Khatib hospital broke out in the early hours of April 25, sparked by the explosion of badly stored oxygen cylinders. Many of the victims were on respirators being treated for COVID-19 and were burned or suffocated in the resulting inferno that spread rapidly through the hospital, where dozens of relatives were visiting patients in the intensive care unit.

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