Hopes fade for 7 babies burned in Romanian hospital fire

Israeli doctors who rushed to Romania yesterday said they feared there was not much they could do to help seven premature infants who were critically burned in a hospital fire that left four other babies dead.

Romanian doctors at Bucharest's Grigore Alexandrescu children's hospital where the injured babies are being treated said the infants weigh just 2.2- 5.5lbs and are burned on up to 80 per cent of their bodies.

Responding to a public outcry about the accident, Bucharest deputy mayor Mircea Iovici said the local council had fired the management at the maternity hospital.

There were also calls for the resignation of Health Minister Attila Cseke.

The blaze at Giulesti maternity hospital forced the evacuation of dozens of babies and women - some in labour - and provoked a wave of public indignation, throwing light on Romania's poorly funded and understaffed health system.

Romanian health official Marius Savu said there had been one nurse on duty at the intensive care unit instead of the mandatory four because of staffing cuts, Mediafax news agency reported.

Doctor Josef Haik, part of a team of specialists flown in from Tel Aviv University, told reporters: "I don't think we can do any more here."

"Their condition can change at any moment, but they are cared for by a professional team," he said. "We've treated premature babies, but we have not seen so many cases in one place."

Thousands of doctors have left Romania in recent years for better paid jobs abroad. Hospitals are understaffed and cannot hire, as the government battles a sharp economic downturn and tries to keep the budget deficit down.

Relations with Israel have become closer in recent months, after six Israeli airmen died in a helicopter crash in July during joint training exercises with Romania.