'This has been a nightmare:' families slam hospitals with no A/C amid deadly heat wave
The families of patients in some of Montreal's hospitals are denouncing "inhumane" conditions, as temperatures soar in rooms and conditions deteriorate amidst Quebec's deadly heat wave.
As of Thursday morning, the heat wave had claimed 33 lives throughout the province.
At Sacre Coeur Hospital, the families of some patients have complained that a lack of air conditioning is making conditions inhumane. Temperatures in some rooms have reached as high as 32 degrees.
"They're suffering and they're going to be suffering more if there's no air conditioning," said Effie Tsatoumas, whose mother is being treated for pneumonia.
Tsatoumas said her family tried to bring a portable air conditioner into her mother's room but were told by security it wasn't allowed.
"I don't understand, for elderly people to have no air conditioning in the state they're in," she said. "I'm healthy and I had a hard time breathing in there."
Tsatoumas said her mother began suffering from dehydration and eventually went into cardiac arrest after her organs started failing.
"This has been a nightmare for my whole family and most importantly for my mother," she said. "She's in a state where we're very concerned and we don't know what's going to happen next."
Her mother has been transferred to the hospital's ICU, one of the few units that does have A/C.
Josee Savoie, the hospital's director of professional services, said only the facility's critical care units are air conditioned.
Over the past decade, $10 million has been spent on upgrading the hospital's electric system, but Director of Technical Services Frederic Cossette said the hospital still can't support an air conditioning system.
"All of our electrical panels are fully loaded, so we have only the essentials for patient care," he said. "We're not able to upgrade it now and have enough power to have A/C in all our rooms."
"Of course, it would be ideal to have air conditioning in all rooms, but it's not what we have in those old buildings," she said.
According to public health officials, all the fatalities have been elderly or had chronic health conditions and none had air conditioning.
Mylene Drouin, the Montreal Regional Director of Public Health, laid out some guidelines for concerned family members of hospitalized patients.
"We ask people to take the patients out of their rooms at least two times a day for two hours," she said. "There are places that have air conditioning in each hospital and we ask them to give them water and towels (dunked in) cold water."
Drouin said on Tuesday that Urgences-Sante had reported a 30 per cent rise in ambulance transports since the beginning of the heat wave, up to about 1,200 per day. Drouin said the increase matches that seen during similar weather in 2010.
“At the moment, it fits exactly with the features we’ve described: people with chronic diseases, mental health issues, people who live alone, people without air conditioning who live in apartments of more than four or six stories and obviously, in areas where there is lots of heat,” she said. “These are the same criteria that’s used with our partners who are going door to door.”
Montreal’s civil services have announced the introduction of measures aimed at ensuring the well-being and safety of residents, including a door-to-door operation designed to reach at-risk people and to provide prevention advice in certain areas.
An emergency coordination centre has been activated to supervise those measures and Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante has called on Montrealers to show solidarity with at-risk people.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter to express his condolences to the families of victims.
My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who have died in Quebec during this heat wave. The record temperatures are expected to continue in central & eastern Canada, so make sure you know how to protect yourself & your family: https://t.co/JSPPsU80x9— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) July 4, 2018
Premier Philippe Couillard praised the work of public health officials.
“It’s tragic, but whenever there are heat waves like this, and we will have more heat than before because of changes to the climate, the people who are weakened and vulnerable are the most affected,” he said. “Public health services, especially in Montreal, have things in hand. It must be verified that our elderly, especially, are well-hydrated, have access to places that are air conditioned, even if it’s temporary.”
Couillard noted that the weather is expected to cool down by Friday but “we expect to have this kind of episode every year.”