Healthcare Professionals in Arizona Alert to Heat Dangers After Deadly 2023

Healthcare Professionals in Arizona Alert to Heat Dangers After Deadly 2023

A Valley emergency department physician worries that even the greatest plans might not be sufficient to prevent heat deaths this year.

Statistics from 2023 indicate that 645 persons in Maricopa County passed away from heat-related causes. That is a 52% rise from the previous year and the largest number of heat-related deaths ever recorded, according to Maricopa County. Valleywise Health ER doctor Dr. David Sklar said, “Last summer was the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Although Sklar has been employed at Valleywise for seven years, he has been a physician for over 35 years. Over that time, Sklar claimed he had never seen patients arriving every day with temperatures of 107 degrees or higher, unconscious, and in such agony. “That was what alerted me to the fact that something rather unusual and something quite terrible going on in our community,” Sklar added.

Sklar wrote an opinion piece in which he outlined his worries and suggestions for more steps that might be taken to assist stop deaths while praising individuals at the state, county, and municipal levels for their efforts to draft strategies. He worries that the summer of last year will repeat itself.

“I’m concerned that we could see even more, a lot more deaths, and overwhelm our entire healthcare system,” Sklar added. Those who treat homeless people before they arrive at the emergency room share this worry.

“We have to be prepared for the same or even worse than last summer,” Circle the City Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Ellert stated. Circle the City used forty thousand water bottles last year in their effort to assist persons who are homeless. More was required, and more will be required again, they added.

Ellert added that the group is considering launching an IV hydration program to help patients resupply fluids in advance of the heat this year.

“We have started investigating and putting together an IV program for the summer for those who are experiencing the extreme effects of the heat because, frequently when it gets to a certain point, it’s difficult for people to consume the amount of fluid that they need orally,” Ellert said. Ellert stressed that even people who do have homes but lack air conditioning or other safety-enhancing amenities are nonetheless vulnerable.

All of the inside heat-related deaths in Maricopa County last year occurred in uncooled locations, according to the 2023 Heat-Related Deaths Report.

Ellert said, “We shall have a crisis again this summer unless we bind together as a community, recognize the severity of the effects of heat, and put things in place to protect both those experiencing homelessness and those who are housed who are vulnerable.”

Together with identifying high-risk individuals living both inside and on the streets, Sklar said he would like to see more education, outreach, coordination, and training. A team to investigate the deaths, like previous statewide reports on child deaths, is something he would also like to see better understood as to why the heat-related deaths occur.

“It’s a moral issue as much as a health issue,” Sklar declared.

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