The impact of heatwaves on emergency department visits in Brisbane, Australia : a time series study
Toloo, Ghasem Sam, Yu, Weiwei, Aitken, Peter, FitzGerald, Gerry, & Tong, Shilu (2014) The impact of heatwaves on emergency department visits in Brisbane, Australia : a time series study. Critical Care, 18(2), R69.
The acute health effects of heatwaves in a subtropical climate and their impact on emergency departments (ED) are not well known. The purpose of this study is to examine overt heat-related presentations to EDs associated with heatwaves in Brisbane.
Data were obtained for the summer seasons (December to February) from 2000-2012. Heatwave events were defined as two or more successive days with daily maximum temperature >=34[degree sign]C (HWD1) or >=37[degree sign]C (HWD2). Poisson generalised additive model was used to assess the effect of heatwaves on heat-related visits (International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 10 codes T67 and X30; ICD 9 codes 992 and E900.0).
Overall, 628 cases presented for heat-related illnesses. The presentations significantly increased on heatwave days based on HWD1 (relative risk (RR) = 4.9, 95% confidence interval (CI): 3.8, 6.3) and HWD2 (RR = 18.5, 95% CI: 12.0, 28.4). The RRs in different age groups ranged between 3-9.2 (HWD1) and 7.5-37.5 (HWD2). High acuity visits significantly increased based on HWD1 (RR = 4.7, 95% CI: 2.3, 9.6) and HWD2 (RR = 81.7, 95% CI: 21.5, 310.0). Average length of stay in ED significantly increased by >1 hour (HWD1) and >2 hours (HWD2).
Heatwaves significantly increase ED visits and workload even in a subtropical climate. The degree of impact is directly related to the extent of temperature increases and varies by socio-demographic characteristics of the patients. Heatwave action plans should be tailored according to the population needs and level of vulnerability. EDs should have plans to increase their surge capacity during heatwaves.
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