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Climate change is pushing hospitals to tipping point

Published on July 21, 2022

The emergency care tower at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington.
Image Credit: Oran Viriyincy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When an unprecedented heat wave baked the Pacific Northwest last July, emergency rooms sought any way possible to lower the core body temperatures of patients coming in droves with heat-related ailments. Many emergency departments in the region began putting people in body bags filled with ice to help safely adjust their temperatures. But despite their lifesaving efforts, around 1,000 excess deaths occurred from the brutal heat.

“We unfortunately had a real live stress test here for the Pacific heat dome because the temperatures were so high and we had a 69-fold increase in hospital-related presentations,” said Kristie L. Ebi, professor of global health and founder of the Center for Health and Global Environment (CHANGE) at the University of Washington.

The health care sector contributes significantly to the worsening climate crisis, representing nearly 8.5 percent of all U.S. emissions. But Ebi said that it’s difficult to uproot the entire energy system of a health facility. Still, Ebi mentioned that there are smaller opportunities that hospitals can — and should — be pursuing to reduce their carbon footprints, whether that be through energy and waste management or by working to improve the well-being of patient communities.

Continue reading at The Washington Post.

Originally written by Vanessa Montalbano for The Washington Post.
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