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NY Hospital Launching Investigation After Patient Allegedly Set on Fire During Surgery

"That happens sometimes. It’s not unusual"

Dr. Jay Yelon, the chief of surgery of New York's Lincoln hospital, was performing a tracheotomy on an unconscious Enrique Ruiz when his electronic scalpel-- which reportedly gives off tiny sparks-- came too close to the man's oxygen supply.  The result?  According to hospital insiders, a "minor explosion."

Before awaking, Ruiz suffered severe burns on his neck and chest.

"I felt like my chest was on fire," he told his brother.

The New York Post continues:

Sources at the South Bronx hospital charge a whitewash, saying Yelon failed to mention the patient’s burns in a post-surgery report; he claimed the flames were extinguished with “no danger to the patient.”

“I don’t know anything about it,” Yelon repeatedly told The Post, refusing to answer any questions or acknowledge his role.

Such mishaps that harm patients must be reported immediately to the state Health Department. Spokesman Peter Constantakes first said the Lincoln incident was reported as harmless, but later confirmed, “There was a fire and burns. We’re looking into it.”

Ruiz is expected to make a full recovery, particularly since he just underwent a life-saving medical procedure.

One doctor reportedly remarked on the explosion: “That happens sometimes. It’s not unusual,” he said, adding that it was “like a sunburn.”

“It’s a burn burn!” Ruiz's brother allegedly retorted. “He’s in pain!”

The Post concludes: "About 500 to 600 surgical fires occur each year nationwide, said Mark Bruley, a leading expert on the hazard. About 25 to 30 suffer severe burns or “gross facial disfigurement,” and several have burned to death, he said."

A non-profit that consults on patient safety, the ECRI Institute, maintains that "virtually all surgical fires are preventable."

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