Medical staff at a Shanghai hospital have been accused of abandoning a man who was under general anaesthetic on an operating table when a fire broke out in an adjacent room.
The patient was later found dead.
The fire occurred at the No3 People's Hospital, in Baoshan district, shortly after 10pm on Wednesday.
The 49-year-old patient, a Shanghai resident, had been undergoing an emergency operation on his legs following a car accident, a hospital spokeswoman said.
He was in a critical condition on arrival at the hospital due to loss of blood, but had received transfusions and was stabilised before the operation two hours before the fire. The cause of death has not been determined, the spokeswoman said.
She did not deny that the patient was left unattended for some time, but insisted medical staff 'did not run away to save themselves'.
'We understand that some staff attempted to fight the fire while others were calling for assistance,' she said.
The Xinmin Evening News reported on its website that the man was suspected to have died of asphyxia.
Citing the head of the hospital, it said the team of six medical staff underestimated the fire and had been suspended from duty, pending further investigation. But hospital management also said the man's life would have been under immediate threat if he was removed from the life-support equipment in the operating theatre.
The paper said the man had been left alone in the operating theatre because he was 'unable to escape' when the medical team evacuated the building.
Fairly extensive fire damage was clearly visible through broken and blackened windows on the top floor of the hospital's three-storey surgical annex yesterday afternoon. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
The hospital is providing counselling and other support to the deceased patient's relatives who were 'understandably shocked' by his death, the spokeswoman said.