A badly injured Romanian doctor who was moved to Belgium to be treated for the severe burns he suffered after he ran into the flames at a burning hospital to save COVID-19 patients has been honoured as the ‘Hero of the Year’.
The title, awarded in Belgium is selected from nominations of people who carried out heroic actions all over the world and this year it was won by Dr Catalin Denciu.
His heroic action happened when a violent blaze broke out in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Neamt County Hospital in the city of Piatra Neamt in the north-eastern Romanian county of Neamt on 14th November 2020.
Ten people with COVID-19 died in the blaze and six were seriously injured, but the toll could have been higher if not for the bravery of Dr Catalin Denciu, who was on duty at the time.
An inquiry has been launched into the cause of the blaze which, after starting in the ICU, then spread to other rooms. Initial reports indicate that one of the medical devices caught fire, which then ignited an oxygen cylinder.
It is also believed the ICU had been moved to a different floor by the hospital without going through the official channels.
At the time of the blaze and at great risk to himself, Dr Denciu ran into the building to save patients and was seriously injured in the process. He was taken to a hospital in Belgium for treatment.
He reportedly suffered second- and third-degree burns to 40 percent of his body and spent three weeks in an induced coma.
At the time, former Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban called him “the heroic doctor who showed particular courage and spirit of sacrifice in trying to save patients”.
Hans Kluge, 52, a Belgian physician who was appointed Regional Director for Europe at the World Health Organization (WHO), announced this week that Dr Denciu has been honoured as Belgium’s ‘Hero of the Year 2020’.
Kluge said: “I am very happy that my native country, Belgium, recognised the merits of a Romanian doctor from Piatra Neamt, Catalin Denciu, declaring him Hero of the Year 2020.
Kluge was attending a public health event at the Cotroceni Palace in the Romanian capital Bucharest, the official residence of the President of Romania, currently Klaus Iohannis, 61.
The Romanian president was in attendance at the event, organised for World Health Day that was celebrated this week.
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