Chinese officials get warnings, demerits over deadly blaze at Beijing hospital in April

Dozens of mid-level officials in Beijing have been given warnings and demerit points over a fire at a private hospital in the city that killed 29 people in April.

Some 41 officials have been held accountable for the deadly fire that engulfed the Changfeng Hospital six months ago, state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday.

They include Jin Wei, Beijing’s vice-mayor in charge of health, who was given an administrative warning, according to the report, which said he had taken the main “leadership responsibility” for the incident.

chinese officials get warnings demerits over deadly blaze at beijing hospital in april 1
Jin Wei, Beijing’s vice-mayor in charge of health, was given an administrative warning. Photo: Handout

Officials from Fengtai district, where the hospital is located, and some government departments at the Beijing municipal level – including the health commission and the fire brigade – also received warnings or demerits.

Such punishments usually last for six months to a year, according to the rules for officials and members of China’s ruling Communist Party.

Twenty other people are being investigated by police, 19 of whom have been arrested, Xinhua said.

Those arrested were employees of Changfeng Hospital including its legal representative and director, and members of the construction company responsible for the renovation work that was found to have caused the fire.

Most of those who died when the blaze ripped through the hospital on April 18 were elderly or palliative care patients with limited mobility.

It was the deadliest fire in Beijing in more than two decades and raised concerns in China over the slow emergency response, censorship of news reports about the incident, and inadequate care for the elderly.

Beijing’s municipal government set up a team to investigate the fire on April 21, vowing to hold those responsible to account.

The inquiry was later escalated to the national level with the State Council, China’s cabinet, setting up a task force, according to the Xinhua report.

It cited a statement from investigators saying irregularities in the hospital’s renovation work had led to the fire, and that construction workers and hospital staff had failed to immediately report the fire.

They also said the hospital did not immediately activate its emergency response system and that some firefighting equipment was broken. They said there were critically ill patients on the upper floors of the ward building where the fire broke out who could not easily escape due to their limited mobility.

The investigation task force said all of these human errors had made the rescue operation difficult.

Investigators criticised the Fengtai district government for what they said were lapses in safety supervision and “slow reporting of casualties”.

They also pointed to shortcomings in the work of the health commissions and construction supervision departments in both Beijing and Fengtai district.

The State Council’s investigation task force called on health authorities across the country to strengthen safety supervision in the healthcare sector.

South China Morning Post

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