State officials implored the public to avoid unnecessary emergency rooms trips as the system strained to accommodate more than 500 people sickened by this week's infernal conditions.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 506 heat related emergency room and urgent care admissions since June 25 in the Portland metro region. Nearly half of the visits were reported Monday, June 28 — when a record-shattering 116-degree temperature required 251 to seek medical care.
Officials say they are now scrambling to manage a "critical short supply" of hospital beds in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.
"The extreme temperatures we have experienced over four successive days can lead to serious health complications, and we are now seeing the resulting demand for emergency services provided by our hospitals," said Dr. Dana Hargunani, chief medical officer for the state agency.
According to state data, there were only 103 adult ICU beds available in Oregon as of 9 a.m. June 29, out of a total of 703 statewide.
"Right now we are asking the public to treat potential heat-related illnesses as serious, but work with health care providers in non-emergency settings when appropriate who can address these conditions to ensure capacity remains available for regional services," Dr. Hargunani continued.
People with chronic medical conditions are especially vulnerable to the sun's scorching rays, according to a news release, especially those with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or kidney disease. People with these conditions may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature, the news release said.
Portland shattered its all-time recorded highs on consecutive days Saturday, Sunday and Monday, June 26-28, though a high in the upper 90s meant Tuesday was relatively cooler.
In the release, state officials warned that an excessive heat alert will remain in effect through this weekend for much of eastern and central Oregon and Washington, with the temperature likely to range between 110 and 120 degrees.
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