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Indianapolis doctor seeing effects of heat wave in ambulance runs, ER

Some hospitals seeing more heat illnesses

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis’ emergency medical services and IU Health Methodist Hospital have seen the effects of central Indiana’s heat wave as more 911 calls come in and more people end up in the emergency department as a result.

Dr. Mark Liao is the Indianapolis EMS medical director and an emergency medicine doctor at Methodist. He said that Indianapolis EMS is seeing “more than 400 runs a day, and that’s higher than normal with the heat.”

Liao said he is seeing people show up with a range of heat-related illnesses. “People are coming in after being out in the heat and feeling run down, feeling sick to their stomach, having nausea. Those are signs of heat exhaustion, and so we are taking care of that.

“In addition, people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney problems, we see them in the emergency department more often because they’re more susceptible to the effects of heat.”

Liao is pulling double duty. He is picking up shifts in the Methodist emergency department. “We’re not just seeing heat injury. We’re seeing increases in difficulty breathing calls, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma exacerbation, and then things like people feeling light-headed, people feeling like they’re going to faint or have fainted.”

The increase in patients is also putting stress on the hospital. “We are seeing more patients not just through the 911 system, but also in the emergency departments. Everyone is busy. Everyone is trying to get patients seen.”

Liao reminds people that it is important to check in on vulnerable people and try to keep them out of the hospital.