A pancreatic cancer patient died a week after being set on fire during a surgery, Romania’s health ministry has confirmed. The ministry promised to lead an investigation into this “unfortunate incident.”
Burns to 40% of her body
The 66-year-old woman passed on Sunday after experiencing burns to 40% of her body. The fire occurred when an electric scalpel was used after the patient had been prepped with an alcohol-based disinfectant.
The flammable substance caused combustion to occur and the patient's body caught fire. Romanian politician Emanuel Ungureanu, posted on his Facebook page that the patient “ignited like a torch," citing one of the medical staff.
The operation that took place on December 22 was for the removal of a tumor. The incident took place at Floreasca Hospital in Bucharest.
A nurse threw a bucket of water on the patient to prevent the fire from spreading. The whole situation is bringing into light Romania's weak health care system.
“The surgeons should have been aware that it is prohibited to use an alcohol-based disinfectant during surgical procedures performed with an electric scalpel,” the deputy minister, Horatiu Moldovan, told The Guardian.
Meanwhile, it seems even the handling of the incident was problematic. According to the BBC, the victim's family said they hadn't been told of "the gravity of the situation."
"We found out some details from the press when they were broadcast on TV stations," they said. "We aren't making accusations, we just want to understand what happened."
Health Minister Victor Costache has promised to investigate the matter. "We hope to learn from this troubling episode," he said in a statement. "Both myself and the Ministry of Health team that I coordinate will do everything possible to find out the truth."
Romania's healthcare system seems to find itself in scandals a lot. It suffers from a shortage of medical staff as well as dilapidated equipment amongst other problems.