Friday, June 6, 2003 12:00AM EDT
Duke Hospital under investigation
The latest probe comes after a fire in a pediatric intensive care room burned a newborn undergoing treatment there
By MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE, Staff Writer
DURHAM -- State regulators were at Duke Hospital on Thursday investigating what caused a fire that injured a 2-day-old baby during a medical procedure Monday. Findings could take weeks.
At the family's request, the hospital has not identified the baby or released the baby's condition. The newborn remained in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit on Thursday, having suffered burns of varying degrees over 10 percent of its body, according to information the hospital reported to state regulators.
Hospital staff received e-mail Thursday from Dr. William Fulkerson, chief executive officer of Duke Hospital, that detailed the incident and the family's request for privacy.
"Our concerns and attention are being directed to serving the medical needs of the patient, and we are working to support the family," he wrote. "The family will not be responsible for any medical costs associated with the incident."
Hospital officials said they told the family immediately after the fire what had happened. When reached Thursday in Durham, family members declined to comment.
A medical team connected the baby to a life-saving machine after the fire broke out Monday, said hospital spokesman Richard Puff, and the baby remained connected to the machine Thursday.
The baby arrived at the hospital with severe heart and lung problems. The machine was supposed to provide temporary relief. Called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation treatment, or ECMO, tubes transfer blood from a vein to an artificial lung, which adds oxygen, and sends blood back into an artery.
Doctors were attempting to connect those tubes in a pediatric intensive care room Monday afternoon when the fire broke out at 1 p.m., Puff said.
The procedure has been performed hundreds of times at Duke since 1990, Fulkerson said. Doctors and nurses used a heated cauterizing device to prepare the baby and draped areas near the tube incisions with sterile paper, fabric bedding and a blanket. It was those coverings that caught fire.
Staff members quickly doused the baby with sterile water, then continued the procedure and connected the ECMO, Puff said. The Durham Fire Department responded at 1:05 p.m. after the fire was out but while the baby was still being hooked up to the machine, according to a fire department report.
Hospital staff told the fire department of the infant's burns on Wednesday, the report shows, the same day the hospital notified federal and state regulators.
The state Division of Facility Services was investigating the incident Thursday on behalf of federal Medicaid and Medicare programs. Hospitals have to maintain a certain standard of care to get the federal money.
The agency also investigated the Feb. 22 death of 17-year-old Jesica Santillan after a heart-lung transplant with organs that did not match her blood type.
Staff writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske can be reached at 829-4884 or firstname.lastname@example.org