Climate Control – Advice for Health Services
The weather continues to be dominated by high pressure giving warm and sunny weather, a situation which is forecast by Met Éireann to continue. Met Éireann also are forecasting only small amounts of rain over the coming two weeks and thus drought conditions will persist. Humidity is expected to increase over the coming weekend. There are no indications of change from the high pressure conditions which are giving us the current warm weather and drought conditions.
Heatwaves are known to result in increased deaths or serious illness and no segment of the population may be considered protected from the risks associated with heatwaves. However, those at most risk include the elderly, the sick, infants and small children.
During periods of hot weather, the following actions are undertaken:
- Provide public health advice – to protect people from the health effects of heatwaves
- Deliver health services – in safe ambient temperatures
- Treatment – timely effective treatment for those affected by heat-related illnesses which includes the need for cooling the person
- Health advocacy – provide health risk information to planning outside of the health sector including climate change planning
- Epidemiology – monitoring of the health impacts of heatwaves.
Advice for health services
Each service delivery unit needs to ensure that a safe, climate controlled environment exists for the delivery of care to HSE service users.
Room temperature is about 20 degrees Centigrade. HSE Sustainability Office indicates the temperature of 18 – 23 degrees is the comfortable range. In the Heatwave Plan for England, 26 degrees is used as the upper limit for cool areas.
Ideally, all patients and particularly those who are most vulnerable should be cared for in cool areas unless there is a clinical reason for this not to be the case.
For parents, it is advisable to use a room thermometer to check that the room your baby sleeps in is at 16 degrees C to 20 degrees C. Your baby should not sleep in direct sunlight.
The environmental temperature experienced by each patient should be considered – if there are differences, each individual situation needs to be risk assessed and managed. In the absence of an automatic climate control that maintains ideal temperature at all times the following are recommended:
- Draw up a plan for monitoring temperatures
- Measure the temperature, taking into account variability over the day and night
- Identify places that are cool/comfortable temperatures throughout the day and night (<26 degrees)
- Identify places that have temperature problems that need to be addressed.
Respond immediately to uncomfortable ambient temperatures to ensure they return to comfortable temperatures quickly, or move the patient to a suitable environment.
Continue comprehensive temperature assessing as above (1-4)
- Ensure cool areas are kept below 26 degrees
- Review and prioritise high-risk patients
- Ensure sufficient cold water and ice
- Consider weighing service users regularly to identify dehydration and rescheduling physiotherapy to cooler hours
- Communicate alerts to staff and ensure they are aware of heatwave plans
- Ensure sufficient staffing
- Activate plans to maintain business continuity – including a possible surge in demand. Balance business continuity with ability to provide safe service in a comfortable environment.
Ensure staff help and advise patients, including providing access to cool rooms, close monitoring of vulnerable individuals, and reducing initial temperatures through measures including:
- Fans and air conditioning
- Turning off unnecessary lights/ equipment
- Cooling building at night
- Ensuring discharge planning takes home temperature and support into account.
Report the emergence of challenges to senior management.
Continuously monitor and evaluate climate control to ensure the achievement of safe ambient temperatures in patient care spaces with reporting on success and issues arising.