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Hospital fire caused by defibrillation

DURHAM, N.C. -- Preliminary information indicates a fire at a hospital that killed a patient and injured three workers occurred during a defibrillation, authorities said, a procedure typically used to deliver an electric shock to the heart.

Spokesman Jim Jones of the state Department of Health and Human Services said the early information shows a spark and a fire took place during the defibrillation early yesterday at Durham Regional Hospital. He did not elaborate on the specifics of what happened.

Defibrillation is generally used to re-establish a normal heart rhythm. Fire officials investigating the blaze have not said what caused the fire.

A hospital spokeswoman said the fire was limited to one room of Select Specialty Hospital, a separately licensed acute care facility that leases space on the hospital's sixth floor and has 30 beds.

The fourth and fifth floors suffered water damage, authorities said. Twenty-two patients of Select Specialty and about 20 Durham Regional patients were moved to other rooms, said Kellie Peacock, marketing director at Durham Regional.

The fire was reported about 2:15 a.m. When firefighters arrived, the hospital sprinkler system had extinguished the blaze.

Hospital officials were investigating exactly how the fire occurred and just where it began, said Katie Galbraith, Durham Regional's chief of operations.

The patient who died was critically ill, Peacock said. The medical examiner will determine the timing and cause of the patient's death, she added.

Two Select Specialty employees and one employee of Duke University Health System were injured, she said.

-- AP

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