Story By: Amelia Guran, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
This absent medic has been sacked and is facing a manslaughter probe after a patient burned to death on the operating table – and made international headlines – when sparks from an electric scalpel set fire to an alcohol-based antiseptic.
Video footage of the incident that allegedly happened at a hospital in Floreasca – a district in the capital Bucharest – was sent to the health ministry.
It reportedly confirms that the now-sacked head of surgery Mircea Beuran was not present when the fire started, and according to him, he was driving on his way into work.
The 66-year-old woman suffered almost 50 percent burns to her body in the incident. She was undergoing surgery to treat pancreatic cancer and doctors had to finish the operation to stop the bleeding to death after extinguishing the blaze.
The investigation by the health ministry showed the fire was started by an electric scalpel around 10 minutes into the operation. The footage reportedly shows the team of 10 desperately trying to extinguish the flames, including throwing water from a bucket over the burning patient.
The deputy health minister Horatiu Moldovan said the images which were horrific made it clear who was at fault, and the ministry has now announced that the head of surgery has been sacked as a result.
He said: “The surgeons should have been aware that it is prohibited to use an alcohol-based disinfectant during surgical procedures performed with an electric scalpel.”
In a statement, the ministry said: “After examining the material available, the conclusion of the administrative investigation team is that the accident happened as a result of human error carried out by the operating team. It was ascertained that Prof Dr Mircea Beuran, as head of the surgical ward, breached 10 of the 33 features that should have been in place and could have prevented this accident.”
They said that as a result the doctor’s contract as head of the surgical ward had been terminated, and in addition, the other medics that carried out the botched surgery were fined 30,000 lei.
Doctor Mircea Beuran, head of the Floreasca Hospital surgery ward, defended his position by confirming he was not even in the operating theatre when the fire happened.
He said: “The patient suffered from multiple allergies, and so we could not use an iodized solution as is usually done and as more familiar. Those who were present did everything they could to extinguish the flames, somebody even bought a bucket of water in. I was not on the operations team, and I was not in the operations ward.”
Other surgeons described the sacked medic as a professional and competent physician and said the sacking was a result of a witch hunt by the media.
The president of the remaining College of physicians, Gheroghe Borcean, said: “We are witnessing an indecent, unprofessional and uninformed media assault of one of our colleagues with a professional reputation which does not deserve to be tarnished by the series of events that led to this tragedy.”
Romania spends the least on its healthcare system of any EU country, both per resident and as a percentage of its GDP. It has the highest child mortality rates on the continent, along with an underdeveloped hospital infrastructure and a persistent shortage of medical staff.
The matter is also not yet over for the medical team after it was confirmed that police were investigating possible manslaughter charges against all those involved.
In addition management at the hospital are under fire and risk losing their accreditation after they failed to report the incident immediately when it happened.