Immediately implement heat health action plan, Centre to States

States were asked to keep a checklist for assessing health facilities and ambulance preparedness to prevent and manage the health impacts of heat.
Senobi, 80, rushes to a shade to escape from the scorching sun after spreading fish for drying at Nedumthoppu near Chirayinkeezhu in Thiruvananthapuram
Senobi, 80, rushes to a shade to escape from the scorching sun after spreading fish for drying at Nedumthoppu near Chirayinkeezhu in Thiruvananthapuram Kerala | B P Deepu

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Thursday asked all states and union territories to immediately implement the heat health action plan to ensure the safety of people amid rising temperatures that are triggering intense heat waves across the country.

In a virtual meeting chaired by Dr Atul Goel, Director General of Health Services in the Union Health Ministry, the states and Union Territories were asked to assess the preparedness of healthcare facilities in all districts, check the availability of ambulances and set up dedicated heat stroke rooms at all healthcare facilities as part of the plan.

According to the data compiled by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), India has recorded 56 deaths from 24,849 suspected cases of heat stroke between March and May. As many as 46 of these deaths were recorded on May 30 alone.

Between May 1 and 30, 19,189 suspected heat stroke cases were reported in the country, officials said. The data does not include deaths from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Delhi. The final numbers are expected to be higher, officials added.

The virtual meeting came following the long-range outlook forecast issued by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) on May 27 that in June 2024, above-normal monthly maximum temperatures are likely over most parts of the country, except in parts of the southern peninsular India, where normal to below normal temperatures are most likely.

During June, above-normal heat wave days are likely over most areas of Northwest India and adjoining parts of Central India.

The Centre has been taking a series of meetings with the states and UTs following several fires in health facilities and other places, where infants and young people have died.

In the meeting, the center asked the states to carry out sensitization and capacity building of medical officers and health care staff of health facilities on Heat-Related Illness (HRI) symptoms, case identification, clinical management, emergency cooling and surveillance reporting, and health facility resiliency to extreme heat

They were also told to conduct regular preventive fire risk assessment drills to identify potentially vulnerable areas; implement appropriate fire prevention measures, such as proper storage of flammable materials and regular and optimal preventive maintenance of electrical circuits and systems; and provide staff training on fire safety protocols, evacuation procedures, and use of fire-fighting equipment.

The states were directed to install and maintain fire detection and suppression systems, including smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and sprinklers, establish an emergency response plan with SOPs for evacuating patients, staff, and visitors in the untoward event of a fire, and conduct mock emergency drills without compromise regularly.

The directions to the state health departments were also to strengthen Health Systems Preparedness HRI; to share public health advisory with Do’s and Don’ts, guidelines on emergency cooling for severe heat-related illnesses, and guidelines on autopsy findings in heat-related deaths disseminated to all AIIMS and medical colleges across the country.

The joint communication from the Union Health Secretary and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and a communication from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) on health facility fire safety measures were also shared with them.

States were asked to keep a checklist for assessing health facilities and ambulance preparedness to prevent and manage the health impacts of heat.

The center on March 23, asked the states/UTs to take proactive measures to prevent devastating incidents caused by extreme heat. This was followed by another letter on May 29 for all preventive measures concerning fire safety. On June 5, another reminder was given to the states on strictly following fire-safety norms.

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