A surge of heat-related ER visits is forcing some hospitals in the Valley to increase staff

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It’s getting worse.

With temperatures reaching the triple digits, hospitals are continuing to see a significant increase in emergency room visits due to heat-related illnesses.

The Monitor reported in July that hospitals across the Rio Grande Valley were experiencing an increase in heat-related emergency room visits. At the time, South Texas Health System reported seeing a total of 127 patients in their ERs due to heat-related illnesses during the first half of the year, accounting for a 16% increase compared to the same time last year.

Now nearly a month later, the hospital must increase staffing at their 10 emergency facilities to accommodate the increase in visits after seeing another, more alarming spike.

“Even though we’re seeing more patients, we’re ready and able to manage those emergencies at any of our facilities,” said Kennetha Foster, system chief nursing officer for STHS, in a news release Friday. “We’ve opened up extra space in our emergency departments to accommodate the increased patient volume; and we’ve added additional staffing, including registered nurses and nursing assistants, to oversee the spike in ambulance volume.”

From January through July, STHS reported a total of 191 patients making for a 75% increase from last year. So far in the month of August, they have seen four new patients bringing the total to 195 heat-related ER visits this year, surpassing last year’s number of 166 patients.

According to the release, 153 of those visits came in the months of June and July alone. This is a 120% increase in heat-related ER visits compared to the same time last year.

As temperatures continue to reach triple digits, hospital officials are reminding residents to take precautions and limit the amount of time they spend outdoors.

In case one has to spend an extended amount of time outdoors, these are some common symptoms of heat-related illnesses: dizziness, headaches, increased heart rate, confusion, excessive sweating, muscle cramps or even losing consciousness.

Other symptoms include an increase in body temperature showing signs of hot, red, dry or damp skin.

Healthcare officials are recommending residents seek immediate medical attention if they suspect someone is suffering from heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion.