Saturday June 25, 2022

Many hospitals lack of hot weather protection

Published : 19 May 2022, 02:25

Updated : 19 May 2022, 02:27

  DF Report

DF File Photo.

Many Finnish hospitals are ill-equipped for the adverse effects of hot weather, according to a new survey conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

A particular problem is the overheating of indoor spaces during hot weather. Many of the hospitals that responded to the survey reported indoor temperatures between 27°C and 29°C during hot weather, some of them up to 30°C or more.

Heat was most commonly a problem in patient rooms at wards, employees’ break rooms, patient procedure facilities and examination facilities.

In most hospitals, staff, patients and relatives in inpatient wards have complained about high indoor temperatures.

“In hospitals, high heat reduces the well-being of both patients and personnel. It also causes problems with patient procedures and storing medicines”, said THL researcher Virpi Kollanus.

The majority of the hospitals responding to the survey were aware of the need to prepare for high temperatures, but only one third said that their preparedness planning took account of disruptions caused by heat.

A large number of hospitals also do not have written instructions on how to protect patients and employees from heat-related hazards. In many cases, mechanical cooling is only possible in parts of the facilities or not at all.

“It is difficult to completely prevent the adverse effects of hot weather if indoor spaces get very hot. This is why it is important to protect hospital facilities from heat. If other means are not enough, mechanical cooling should be used”, said Kollanus.

More than half of the respondents wished for more information on ways to prevent high heat indoors as well as financial support for investments.

In addition to investigating the risks caused by high heat and related prevention measures, preparedness plans should also define responsibilities and include instructions for personnel.

According to the survey respondents, the prevention of health hazards caused by hot weather in social welfare and health care should be promoted by having stronger preparedness steering on the national level.

“Preparedness could be supported by compiling and supplementing guidelines for social welfare and health care actors and by defining guidelines or thresholds for summer indoor temperatures in health care institutions, which would also include the perspective of patient safety”, said Kollanus.

Heat warnings by the Finnish Meteorological Institute could also be developed so that issued warnings and authorities’ operating instructions would be communicated automatically to social welfare and health care actors.

Only half of the hospitals that responded to the survey reported that they currently take hot weather warnings into account in their operations.

“Hot weather is a significant health risk, especially for older people and people with long-term illnesses. A prolonged heatwave that lasts several weeks may lead to several hundred deaths in Finland. Most of the deaths occur in health care institutions. The need for hot weather preparedness in social welfare and health care will only increase further as the climate warms up and the population ages”, said Kollanus.

The THL survey was carried out between 15 November and 10 December 2021.

Respondents consisted of 141 primary health care and specialised medical care hospitals all around Finland.

The study was funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.