Heat wave

Aug 21st, 2003, 09:11 AM
  #1  
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Heat wave

An interesting aside: Tried to post to the earlier thread re this topic that was first posted on 8/14, and then turned into a long discussion of greenhouse gases and energy consumption and so forth, and found that the thread has apparently been locked down in some way: it's still there, but you can't post to it.

Anyway, one of the questions raised in that thread was whether the number of deaths was actually unusual relative to the number of deaths that would have normally occurred during a month's time. Apparently so, as French funeral homes were overwhelmed by the demand, numbers well out of the ordinary.
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Aug 21st, 2003, 11:25 AM
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I read this too; they had over 10.000 additional funerals this summer, compared to figures in other years.
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Aug 21st, 2003, 05:04 PM
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You actually CAN post to that other thread, but it seems unnecessary to do so.
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Aug 21st, 2003, 05:06 PM
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Well, I stand corrected - - they actually did plug that "obvious" little loophole.

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Aug 21st, 2003, 05:12 PM
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"Heat Death Toll Forces a Shocked France to Question Itself"

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/20/in...ND-FRANCE.html

"The staggering number of deaths in France is finally drawing the nation's attention to who died and how. . . . The government estimates that the heat killed perhaps 5,000 people. The largest undertaker, General Funeral Services, said today that the number could be more than twice that. . . .The victims were generally found inside apartments or houses or hotels. In virtually every case, there was no air-conditioner."

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Aug 21st, 2003, 06:16 PM
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What I read that was a bit disturbing was that the majority of the deaths ocurred during the month that most French families go on vacation. Apparently, taking the elders on the family vacation is not the norm and most are left at home to sort of tend to themselves for the time being. Unattended elderly relatives may had been a major contributor to the staggering numbers of heat-related deaths in France. Mind boggling.
 
Aug 21st, 2003, 11:43 PM
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<...In virtually every case, there was no air-conditioner.>
This is unsurprising to me, as it is almost unheard of for there to be air-conditioning in private homes in France. The cost is prohibitively high for most people.
There are portable air-conditioners (still expensive) but once the heatwave began, most shops had sold out within a few days, and even fans were hard to come by in many places! Bear in mind that these kind of items are often only sold in out-of-town shopping malls, accessible only by car, and for many old people they may as well be selling them on Mars...
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Aug 21st, 2003, 11:55 PM
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We are so grateful that the heat wave has broken in Belgium and we're back to normal summer weather. It's pretty cool and cloudy right now.
The heat wave was a silent killer, with most of its victims behind closed doors. It wasn't like a forest fires, floods, or the massive windstorm of a few years ago, where the damage was obvious and immediate.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the French don't have a sense of civic duty, that is helping the vulnerable during a prolonged crisis, at least on an individual level. They falsely assumed "the system" would handle everything.
There is some soul searching (and a lot more blamestorming) going on in France and hopefully the country will respond better in the next heat wave.
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Aug 22nd, 2003, 12:11 AM
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The French minister for Health has, as we say in Scotland, his "jaicket on a shoogly hook"

AIUI, many older people simply didn't/don't understand the need to take more water, and most dies of dehydradation. Not, I would add, abandonment
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Aug 22nd, 2003, 12:24 AM
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What's so mind boggling about not taking elderly relatives on holiday with you?
Who takes their parents on holiday with them? How many elderly parents want to be lumbered with the squabbles of their children and their adolescent grandchildren for four weeks at a stretch?
To the extent that we will ever know how many "extra" people died in the past three weeks, we'll find we're not talking about the known, ailing, care-dependent, ill. We're talking about ordinary, healthy 75-year olds whose inability to cope with 24-hour extreme temperatures (in buildings designed to keep out the cold and damp)was something they, their doctors and their families neither foresaw nor were even aware of at the time.
It pains me to be fair to the French. But let's not get carried away by this.
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Aug 22nd, 2003, 01:34 AM
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BTilke wrote:

"Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the French don't have a sense of civic duty, that is helping the vulnerable during a prolonged crisis, at least on an individual level. They falsely assumed "the system" would handle everything.
There is some soul searching (and a lot more blamestorming) going on in France and hopefully the country will respond better in the next heat wave."

Thanks for the insult .... the majority of deaths occured in medical institutions for the elderly and most of the cases at home were reported by family members and neighbors. In addition, most of the elderly showing up at the emergency wards were accompanied by family members or neighbors ...

Flanneruk wrote:
"It pains me to be fair to the French. But let's not get carried away by this. "

Why ? is it ok then when it pains the French to be fair to the British or the Americans ?
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Aug 22nd, 2003, 03:58 AM
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Florence, sorry you're insulted. It seems to be easier to lash out at messengers, rather than pay attention to the message. This is NOT an occasion for a Gallic shrug and "tant pis."

Chirac himself said: "Many fragile people died *ALONE IN THEIR HOMES*. To avoid these tragedies in the future, our prevention, surveillance and alert system will be reviewed so as to ensure greater effectiveness," he said.

A French doctor said the fragile (mostly elderly) had to "hope that their neighbours would note their absence" and try to reach them to provide help. Apparently, the neighbours weren't inclined to do so or weren't around.

Yes, many of the thousands died in hospital...but by the time they reached the hospital there were already in critical condition. More vigilance by the individuals looking out for their neighbours could have saved *thousands* of lives.

FlannerUK, what a cold world you must live in! Even on vacation, we would most certainly check with memories of our family to see if they were doing ok in the heat wave, especially if they were elderly or in fragile health. We wouldn't even ignore our dog in such a heat wave, let alone cherished members of the family.

U.S. cities like Chicago also get hit by severe heat waves. In such cases, churches, local community groups, and individuals quickly mobilize to help those in need. They don't turn a blind eye and rely on the system to do it for them.

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Aug 22nd, 2003, 04:01 AM
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Oops, meant members of the family, not memories (although thousands of family members are now just memories).

FYI, latest reports suggest that the 10,000 figure is actually too low--the number of deaths could turn out to be much higher.
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Aug 22nd, 2003, 04:07 AM
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flanneruk----"UNATTENDED" elderly is mind-boggling to me as a cause of death. The fact that they would not accompany the rest of the family on a family vacation is not the mind -boggling part. My grandmother never used to go with us on vacations, even when both my parents will insist. She just loved to stay at home. But she was never left unattended. Friends, neighbors, and other relatives were always at hand to check on her every day, many times a day.

I am just commenting on what the French are writing about the French crisis--unattended elderly is being cited as a factor.
 
Aug 22nd, 2003, 04:50 AM
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BTilke,

Bravo for buying into the propaganda of Chirac who is, as usual, trying to shift the burden of responsability from his government (that has relentlessly cut in the budgets for the elderly and refused to aknowledge the warnings given by medical and social workers at the start of the heat wave) to the general population. The fact is that most deaths occurred because emergency wards and social institutions in charge of the elderly are understaffed and underfinanced, pensions and special allowances aiming at keeping the elderly mobile and independent have been slashed, etc., not because the French are indifferent to the plight of their elderly parents.

Maira,
Most old people in France are also attended to by family, friends, neighbors and social services. None of them could predict the lenght and severity of the heatwave. You also have to take into account the fact that the first symptoms of dehydratation are not all that obvious, that many old people are jealous of their independence, etc., which accounts for a part of the lateness in the response.

I've spent most of the period ensuring that my (80 and 89) neighbors have enough to drink and in the emergency ward of the hospital I'm working in, translating consultations for dehydrated Japanese tourists and generally trying to help around, so I think I know what I'm talking about.
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Aug 22nd, 2003, 05:15 AM
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Florence--- appreciate your insight on the situation. It was most informative.

Again, I am only commenting on what the French newspapers are writing about the French crisis. It seems there is enough blame to be spread around, even Americans and their lifestyle have been blamed for this one (of course, who else?...).

Well, 10,000 plus heat-related deaths in a civilized country is an awful tragedy and some heads should roll. Somebody should be dusting off the guillotine ...
 
Aug 22nd, 2003, 05:27 AM
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I also quoted a French doctor who has been dealing with those affected by the heat wave.
Many of these deaths could have been prevented by earlier intervention before hospitalization became necessary. You say no one could have predicted the length of the heat wave--but surely, as it went on and on, why didn't families cut back on their vacations to help their fragile relatives? Why didn't individuals take more action to help their elderly or fragile neighbours? Why were there SO many more deaths in France than in other countries affected by the heat wave? Why didn't 10,000 PLUS die in Italy, in Portugal, in Spain, in Germany? Their health care and pension systems are under the same economic pressures as in France, some even more.
It's very easy for the French to blame Chirac and the government. Much harder to ask themselves what THEY could have done to reduce the appallingly high number of deaths. Congratulations for your efforts--but unfortunately, you were the exception, not the norm.
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Aug 22nd, 2003, 05:37 AM
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a lot of comments, some interesting and intelligent, others stupid and revealing or a too quick analysis or a partisan politician analysis...(explanation of Florence about Chirac would be humoristic if there were not all those deaths...).
1?)before accusation of who is responsible, we have to know how much and overall who is deceased...In"who" I mean : were the old personns dead healthy before the heat wave or have they a fragil health before.
I explain : i'm oncologist and during the heat wave, we have had a lot of
"prematured deaths", not because a lack of treatments, but because heat(like too cold weather or an epidemy of severe
viral infection) is letal for fragil patients...
The same for severe cardiac insuffiency, diabetis, severe respiratory insufficiencties, and so one...
So before all, we have to separate the death of those too fragil patients, with
the real "heat's " death from patients who seemed before the wave in good condition ad are dead from not arriving to prevent deshydratation.
2?)As always , french people are looking
for responsabilities without analysis, making politic where we have to have
solidarity and find some solution for the future...
Houses for elderly patients are not so
numerous but when they exist, there is always difficultis to find workers for them...
3?)Analysis for some of the american correspondants is also laugheable : take the elders in vacation with the
family : easy to say, but as have responded a realistic commenter, who
make it??(I was in utah/arizona for hiking this summer : how do you find my parents if there were fragil will have
supported those holidays???).

So, first, serious analysis and after solution which will have a cost...
But i'm sure the french will accept that
government, without augmentation of taxes...will pay for the solutions...
Erik.

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Aug 22nd, 2003, 05:45 AM
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Maira,

not the guillotine, the mortuaries are already congested enough ;-)

As usual, one underling in the government has already lost his job (I'm not too afraid for his future, though), Chirac has shown his devoted followers that he knew how to look as if he really cared, there will be a lot of blame and counter-blame, but precious little will be done to actually address the core of the problem.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting to hear about the number of death among children of underprivileged families ...
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Aug 22nd, 2003, 06:09 AM
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If you plan to visit glamorous St Tropez make sure you are in good health, as a friend of mine had to be taken to hospital there recently. She is British but thought that even the worst Victorian hospital in Britain would have been better than the one she was taken to in St Tropez. And this wasnt even during the heatwave.
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