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Firefighters at St. Georgy's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
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A ventilator short circuiting caused a fire at a St. Petersburg hospital. A device from the same Russian manufacturer caught fire in a Moscow hospital three days ago.

Source: Meduza
Firefighters at St. Georgy's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
Firefighters at St. Georgy's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
Petr Kovalev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

A fire killed five people at St. Georgy’s Hospital in St. Petersburg on the morning of May 12. The blaze broke out on the sixth floor, in the department where coronavirus patients were being treated.

All of the victims were patients diagnosed with COVID-19, who had been connected to ventilators. Four of them were staying in the same room where the fire began, while the other was in the neighboring room (the Prosecutor’s Office noted that the official cause of death is still being established). 

According to preliminary reports, the cause of the fire was a ventilator that short circuited. The news outlet Baza reported that the ventilator in question was manufactured by the Ural Instrument-Making Plant (UPZ), and that the device was new — the hospital only began using it on May 2. Before that, all of the ventilators at St. Georgy’s Hospital were foreign made. The model that caught fire, an “Aventa-M,” was reportedly included in the shipment of humanitarian aid that Russia sent to the United States at the beginning of April.

The ventilators arrived at St. Georgy’s Hospital on May 1, and medical workers had no complaints about them, the hospital’s head of intensive care told RIA Novosti. The contract for delivering the “Aventa M” ventilators was signed on April 24. According to this agreement, St. Georgy’s Hospital paid 441.3 million rubles (over $6,000) for a delivery of 237 devices.

A similar incident took place at a Moscow hospital on May 9, when a fire in an intensive care unit for coronavirus patients killed one woman. 300 people had to be evacuated from the hospital. According to TASS, a ventilator manufactured by UPZ short circuited in this instance as well, causing the oxygen mixture inside the device to catch fire.

The Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case in response to the fire in St. Petersburg. Russia’s public health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, will also be inspecting the quality and safety of all ventilators currently installed in Moscow and St. Petersburg hospitals. According to Baza, the Ural Instrument-Making Plant has suspended supplies of its devices to hospitals in these two cities.

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Text by Grigory Levchenko

Translation by Eilish Hart