Historic heat wave strains hospitals

Hospitals are seeing a flood of patients with heat-related illnesses amid an extreme and prolonged heat wave in the Southern U.S., where triple-digit temperatures are nearing all-time highs.

As of July 17, nearly 100 million Americans were under heat alerts from South Florida to northern Nevada, according to The Washington Post. 

Valleywise Health Medical Center in Phoenix has seen an increase in hospitalizations among patients with dehydration, heat stroke, contact burns and other heat-related illnesses. 

"The heat is taking a major toll," Frank LoVecchio, DO, an emergency medicine physician at the hospital, told CNN. "The hospital has not been this busy with overflow since a few peaks in the Covid pandemic."

Dr. LoVecchio said he's seen three to four cases per shift that may have been fatal if patients had not received emergency treatment.

The uptick in patients is also straining hospitals and ambulance services in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, according to Wesley Robinson, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer of Harlingen (Texas) Medical Center.

"This year, we are finding that we are about to double the amount of patient admissions that we had last year. On average, every bed is full every single day," he told NBC affiliate KVEO. "So we're trying to create more points of contact where people can come get healthcare elsewhere instead of just the emergency department."

The extreme heat wave comes amid new findings that rising global temperatures and extreme heat are costing healthcare about $1 billion each summer.


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