Medical Calls and Hospital Visits Spike to “Unheard of” Levels in Multnomah County Inside Weekend Heat Dome

There were 410 emergency medical services calls made to Portland Fire & Rescue on Sunday alone.

hot pink Big Pink reflects the sun on a 110-degree afternoon. (Wesley Lapointe) (Wesley Lapointe)

Forty-three people arrived at hospitals in Multnomah County for various heat illnesses through Sunday evening, a number that in two days exceeded the typical number the Portland area sees in a summer month.

The county shared with WW on Monday afternoon that as of Sunday evening, 43 people had shown up at hospitals since Friday for various heat illnesses in the county.

“Normally, we would expect about one or two visits for heat illness in the same time period, and it is not unusual for the county to have zero visits for heat illness on a typical summer day,” Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, a spokeswoman for the county, tells WW. “The visits this weekend alone represent nearly half the heat illness visits we typically see during an entire summer.”

Calls for emergency medical services, too, are absurdly high. Yesterday, Sullivan-Springhetti says, there were 410 calls and over half of those ended up in ambulance transports to a hospital: “We can’t say exactly how many calls were related to heat but that number is unheard of for our county.”

On Sunday afternoon—prior to temperatures peaking at 112 degrees around 5 pm that evening—Sullivan-Springhetti told WW that 14 visits to hospitals had been recorded on Friday and Saturday combined. That was already an anomaly. On Sunday, there were another 29.

“This is elevated above-normal levels....The visits over the past two days represent a significant portion of the heat illness visits typically seen during an entire summer, averaging just over 100 visits in recent years,” Sullivan-Springhetti said.

At this point, it’s unclear if those patients were admitted after their visit, Sullivan-Springhetti said, and no fatalities had yet been recorded.

“Typically, it takes a while to discern the extent of the issues as many heat-related calls come in as chest pain, trouble breathing, etc.,” Sullivan-Springhetti said June 27.

On Monday she told WW that it’s hard to determine if there have been any deaths yet due to heat, as there’s lag time to determine cause of death: “We will look for excess deaths during this time period, and that will take several days.”

WW will update these numbers tomorrow.

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