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North Macedonia’s health minister resigns over a fire in COVID-19 hospital

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After a fire killed 15 people in a temporary COVID-19 hospital in Tetovo last week, North Macedonia’s Health Minister Venko Filipce submitted his resignation on September 10.

Deputy Health Minister Ilir Hasani and the two directors of Tetovo hospital also submitted resignations, although Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has yet to accept them.

On September 11, Zaev confirmed that the resignations had been filed, calling them “a great moral deed.”

He did say, though, that he would make a decision on the resignations after a full examination of the fire.

“I will base the decision regarding the submitted resignations exclusively on the facts I will receive from the investigation,” Zaev said, adding that he expected the judicial experts’ conclusions to be released soon.

The probe will also include German federal forensic experts, according to Zaev.

The incident occurred more than a month before the country’s municipal elections, which are set for October 17, and is expected to influence the ratings of the ruling parties, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUM) (DUI).

Filipce, a neurosurgeon who became a minister in 2017, is one of Zaev’s most visible characters, with frequent media appearances.

In response to a journalist’s query on September 13, Zaev stated that he did not believe the entire administration should resign as a result of the disaster.

Hristijan Mickoski, the head of the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, set a deadline of September 14 for Filipce and Hasani to submit their resignations to the parliament.

“If these resignations are not submitted to the assembly, the parliamentary group of VMRO-DPMNE, with the support of other parties will file a motion to the parliament for the dismissal of Filipce and his deputy,” Mickoski said.

Not only resignations but also “criminal liability” are required in this instance, according to Rasela Mizrahi of VMRO DPMNE, which will be obtained through an objective and unbiased investigation.

Meanwhile, the public prosecutor’s office announced on September 10 that it had initiated a probe into the public procurement for the construction of the country’s 19 makeshift hospitals.

The World Bank funded the improvised hospitals, which were established by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. The project included participation from the Ministry of Health.
The World Bank funded the improvised hospitals, which were established by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. The project included participation from the Ministry of Health.

According to Zaev, the project was carried out in accordance with all regulations.

On the evening of September 8, a fire broke out in a makeshift COVID-19 hospital in Tetovo, killing 14 people. One of them who was hurt later died. The fire occurred on the 30th anniversary of the country’s independence, which was being commemorated in North Macedonia.

Tetovo, a town primarily populated by ethnic Albanians in the northwest, is one of the numerous towns with low vaccination rates and has been the hardest hit by COVID-19’s fourth wave since August. The hospitals are overburdened.

The mayor of Tetovo, Teuta Arifi, has stated that the state will assist the victims’ families.

Credit: Intellinews

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