North Macedonia Convicts COVID Hospital Managers Over Deadly Fire

The former head of the hospital in Tetovo, Florin Besimi, and the official in charge of the technical side of the hospital, Artan Etemi, were found guilty on Monday of endangering public safety for not acquiring fire extinguishers for the modular COVID-19 hospital ward that was hit by a deadly fire in 2021.

In a first-instance verdict, the Tetovo Basic Court gave them both one-and-a-half-year suspended jail sentences. They will not go to prison if they do not commit another crime in the next three years.

To cheers from the crowd had gathered to call for his acquittal, doctor Boban Vuchevski was cleared of "disobeying health regulations during a pandemic" by allowing relatives of hospitalised patients to visit them.

All three had pleaded not guilty. The two convicted men will now be able to appeal.

Fourteen people were killed and a dozen others injured when a fire ripped through the COVID-19 modular hospital on September 8, 2021.

The tragedy raised questions about the safety of the modular hospitals that were built shortly after the coronavirus pandemic struck.

The court also found the Tetovo hospital as a legal entity guilty of endangering public safety and disregarding health protocols.

It was ordered to pay one million denars (some 16,000 euros) in compensation. For additional compensation, the relatives of the victims were told to take private legal action.

Amid questions asked about responsibility, but also about the safety of the materials used at the hospitals and their maintenance standards, the Prosecutor's Office published a report in October 2021 that was prepared by the Department for Criminal Investigations.

The report determined that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit in a...

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