BALEARIC Health and Consumer Affairs minister, Aina Castillo, reported yesterday that the excessive temperatures have meant a 9.07 percent increase in Emergency Services activities this summer but claimed that “there hasn't been a single death as a direct result of the heat wave” in the islands. Nevertheless, at a Press conference, the Health minister admitted that in some cases, the high temperatures could have aggravated the chronic conditions of patients, although she insisted that “it is practically impossible” to determine whether or not deaths could be indirectly attributed to the heat. Analysing the distribution of health centres, the hospital which dealt with most emergencies was that of Son Llatzer on the eastern outskirts of Palma, which registered a 35.3 percent increase of urgent cases against figures for last summer. Following behind Son Llatzer came Manacor Hospital where emergency services have registered a growth of 15.03 percent.
In contrast to these increases, the number of urgent cases dealt with at Son Dureta hospital have dropped by 2.54 percent. Virgen de Monte Toro hospital on Minorca and at Can Misses health centre on Ibiza, there have been growths of 4.1 and 9.9 percent, respectively. The minister explained that at Son Dureta, the principal hospital of the Balearics, 129 deaths were registered in June, 133 in July and 122 during the first two weeks of August whilst last year, 130 deaths were recorded in June, 122 in July and 115 in August. “It is probable that the number of deaths has risen due to the heat aggravating already existing illnesses” but it is “very difficult” to link the increase in deaths solely to the heatwave, because doctors certify the cause of death in relation to the illness from which the patient was already suffering, said the minister. Sergio Beltrán, a health services director, said that it will be necessary to carry out epidemic-related studies to test the growth rate of periods of heat in weather patterns and how they link in with death rates. He specified that between 2001 and 2002, the rise in figures of urgent hospital cases registered 11 percent, while the rise between 2001 and 2003 stood at 17 percent. In this respect, Beltrán pointed out that it has to be taken into account that improved efficiency at Son Llatzer has meant better access to the emergency services which correlatively pushes up the figures of urgent cases handled. In the light of such evidence, Aina Castillo went on to say that it is “irresponsible” to attribute the rise in deaths solely to the heat wave and ventured that the raised temperatures have not generated an abnormally worrying situation. According to the Health minister, people most affected are older people suffering from chronic illnesses and children who have a weakened immune system. Aina Castillo expressed her confidence in the smooth running of the health services and her gratitude for the professional effort shown by medical staff in attending to urgent cases. Speaking about preventative measures that had been put in place, the Health minister emphasized that widespread advice had been given by the Emergency Services (dial 061) on alleviating the effects of the excessive heat. She also drew attention to the preventative campaign organized by the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs.


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