Though the situation is not as bad as last year, the multiple instances of heat waves in the last few weeks have triggered off alarm bells in the health department, which has now alerted all the districts to initiate pre-emptive and response measures. With temperatures already having crossed 40 degree Celsius in some places in the state, health authorities have circulated a list of standard responses to heat-related medical emergencies to all the district and rural hospitals, and primary health care centres. The district administrations have also been asked to conduct training exercises for health workers and launch awareness drives to educate people on ways to avoid heat strokes.
“Infants and the elderly are the most susceptible to heat strokes, and so are people who work outside and physically exert themselves under the sun. We have issued a list of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ to all 34 district hospitals, 1,811 primary health centres and 365 rural hospital across the state while dealing with cases of heat strokes,” Sanjeev Kumar, Commissioner, National Health Mission (Maharashtra), who also holds the charge of Director of Health, told The Indian Express.
The Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) said it had received as many as 1,211 calls in February itself on its emergency number from persons complaining of symptoms related to heat stroke. According to Dnyaneshwar Shelke, chief operating officer at MEMS, the maximum number of calls had come from Amravati (132), Mumbai (128), Pune (65) and Nagpur (58) regions. Last year, Maharashtra had recorded seven deaths due to heat waves, two each in Jalgaon and Beed districts, and one each in Chandrapur, Nanded and Amravati.
Though heat waves were observed a bit earlier this year, in February itself, the situation has largely been under control. Temperatures in the Konkan region were unexpectedly high, hovering around 40 degree Celsius, during the last days of February and the first couple of days of this month. Bhira, Raigad and Mumbai recorded the maximum temperature during this time. Many schools in these areas changed their timings, an exercise that is generally seen only in April.
The Met department has predicted heat wave like conditions to set in over Odisha, Telangana, and some parts of Vidarbha during later part of this week. Vidarbha, which regularly experiences heat-waves in the months of April and May, is likely to face these conditions much earlier this year. Heat-wave related deaths across the country have come down sharply in the last three years, thanks to some commonsensical and proactive steps taken by state governments and district authorities, with the help of the National Disaster Management Authority. In 2015, as many as 2,040 deaths were reported all over the country due to heat-related complications. The figure came down to 1,111 in 2016, and 222 last year. The nearly 90 per cent reduction in deaths was achieved despite an increase in the number of heat-related illnesses that was reported.
On the lines of Ahmedabad, which prepared and implemented a heat action plan in 2013, several states and districts now have action plans. In Maharashtra, Nagpur, Gondia, Chandrapur, Akola and Jalgaon have already put an action plan in place. Chandrapur also happens to be one of the places that has received a special grant from the Union government’s Department of Science and Technology to implement a comprehensive heat action plan.