Patient dies after fire in surgery

BY SCOTT FITZGERALD LEE NEWSPAPERS 09/16/2009   MARION, Ill. — A 65-year-old Southern Illinois woman died days after she was burned in a fire in an operating room, a lawyer for her family says.   Attorney Robert Howerton of Marion says a state of Tennessee death certificate shows that Janice Diane McCall of Energy, Ill., died from thermal burns. Howerton said the death certificate has not been officially stamped and entered into a state ledger.   McCall was transferred to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., for treatment of the burns she suffered while she was a patient in the operating room at Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion on Sept. 2. She died six days later.   A news release issued by Heartland Regional on Tuesday said the accidental fire was immediately extinguished by operating room personnel. No other injuries were reported.   Marion Fire Chief Jack Reed said he visited with hospital administrators on Wednesday morning after he got word of the fire through news reports. The chief said he and hospital administrators will “try to ascertain the origin of the fire and what fueled it.” “It may have involved a hospital gown she had on. We don’t know what may have flashed the fire on or within the patient,” Reed said.   Reed said early reports indicate the fire lasted 10 to 15 seconds in a very small area. Flash fires are brief and not sustained, consuming whatever fuels them very quickly, Reed said. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which accredits 17,000 hospitals nationwide, estimates that 100 to 200 fires ignite each year in hospital operating rooms. Calls to Heartland Regional on Tuesday and Wednesday seeking comment were not returned.   Howerton said the McCall family was grief stricken over Janice McCall’s death.   “She was the center post for that family,” Howerton said.   Scott Fitzgerald is a reporter at the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale.

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