Former health minister testifies in Salt hospital case

Former Health Minister Nathir Obeidat on Thursday took the stand to testify in the Salt hospital case, where eight people died due to an oxygen supply outage.

Obeidat told the Amman Magistrates Court, in its 23rd session on the case, that the employees of the Ministry’s center are not directly responsible for re-filling the oxygen supply at hospitals, but that “there are designated employees for this purpose who report to the hospital’s administration.”

He also testified that it is customary for the director of health in any governorate to be the manager of general affairs, adding that he himself had nothing to do with such an issue and did not fundamentally interfere with the work of hospitals.

He stated that he headed directly to the Salt-based hospital at 9 a.m. on the day of the incident (March 13), and met with its director, who reported that the “problem was over with” and that four people had passed away due to an oxygen supply outage, and two others had also died but he was uncertain whether they had died from an outage or a shortage in oxygen supply.

Obeidat, who resigned following the incident, told the court that he had held a meeting with a number of officials and directors of all hospitals to discuss the issue of oxygen, especially following an increased demand during the pandemic, as well as the discovery of a leak in oxygen tanks at the Maan field hospital prior to its opening. He testified that the director of the Salt Hospital said, during the meeting, that there are no problems at all on that front and that he called on his colleagues to visit the hospital and look first hand at its experiences and benefit from its expertise.

He said that he believed that the problem was the depletion of oxygen, which should have been re-filled in a timely manner, and that the ministry employees had nothing to do with that. His own role as [former] minister, he added, involved setting strategies not following up on technical details. “It is the duty of the appointed hospital directors to carry out these tasks and minute details, and to ensure that the necessary procedures are implemented and to develop the necessary plans for such purposes,” he testified.

On the financial front, the former minister assured that there were no financial issues regarding the oxygen supply demands, and that the needs are met to a level that is more than expected.

Last Sunday, a former director of a number of government hospitals affiliated with the Ministry of Health testified to the court that the ministry does not interfere with the monitoring of the levels of oxygen tanks, and that the task is entrusted to the hospital director. He also attested that the monitor of these tanks held a secondary education certification, adding that this position does not require undergoing a training or completing courses because it is easy.

So far, the court heard 40 prosecution witnesses, which are expected to reach 49 in the case, in addition to the testimony of 9 experts.

Last March, the Public Prosecution opened an investigation into an oxygen supply outage at the Salt government hospital, prompting the arrest of 13 Health Ministry officials, who were released after the 30-day custody period ended.

Source: Jordan News Agency