Heatwave injury surveillance and the January 2014 heatwave in Victoria

Some Australian governments have information systems which use administrative health system data to monitor heatwave-related health conditions, such as the Victorian Government’s Heat Health Information Surveillance System (HHISS).

Between 14 and 17 January 2014, Victoria experienced the hottest 4-day period on record for the state (Department of Health Victoria, 2014). This resulted in a surge of health service use and deaths as compared to averages for the same week over the previous 3 years, including: 

  • a 25% increase in the Ambulance Victoria caseload in metropolitan Victoria and continuing higher than expected ambulance caseloads in days immediately following the heatwave.
  • a 7% increase in all cause public hospital Emergency Department (ED) presentations. Among Victorians aged 75 years or older, this represented a 23% increase in ED presentations.
  • 621 heat-related ED presentations, 5 times more than expected. 40% of these were in people aged 75 years or older.
  • 858 deaths, an estimated 167 more than expected, representing a 24% increase in total mortality. In the Melbourne heatwave of early 2009 that preceded the Black Saturday bushfires, HHISS recorded 374 more deaths than would normally be expected at that time of year.
  • 63 deaths prior to arrival at an ED and 27 deaths in ED.
  • three times as many heat-related calls than expected to after-hours primary care services. 60% of these calls were related to heat exposure or injury.

For more information see The health impacts of the January 2014 heatwave in Victoria.