VICTORIA, B.C. – During the heatwave last summer, the Peace region saw four heat-related deaths, according to a recent BC Coroners Service report.

A review was conducted into B.C.’s extreme heat event after the coroners service responded to “a sudden and significant increase in reported deaths.”

More than 800 deaths were investigated between June 25th to July 1st, with 619 deaths later identified as heat-related.

A report was then submitted by a review panel, consisting of 23 members, to B.C.’s chief coroner, and was released on Wednesday.

“I am very grateful to each of the panel members for their insights, collaboration and
commitment to the health and safety of the people of B.C.,” said Lisa Lapointe, the chief coroner.

“We know that weather-related emergencies caused by climate change will continue to
challenge us as individuals and as a province. We must learn what we can from the tragic loss of life last summer to support future awareness and focused public health and safety
strategies.”

There was one heat-related death in the Fort St. John region, and the other three occurred in the Dawson Creek region.

Heat-related deaths mapped by injury location (Death review panel report)

The health authority with the most amount of heat-related deaths was Fraser, with 312 deaths, or 50 per cent. Vancouver coastal had the second most deaths, with 145, or 23 per cent.

The Interior and Island health authorities had 84 and 55 deaths, respectively.

The least amount reported was Northern Health, which covers the entire top half of the province, with 23 deaths.

According to the report, almost all the heat-related deaths reported between June 25th to July 1st (98 per cent) occurred indoors.

According to Medical Services Plan billings, just over 60 per cent of the deceased had visited a doctor at least once in the previous months to their death and 62 per cent had 10 or more visits to a doctor 12 months prior to their death.

More than half (56 per cent) of the deceased lived alone and more than half (66.9 per cent) did not have air conditioning.

According to data matched with the Ministry of Health’s Chronic Disease Registry found that 91 per cent of the deceased were assigned to at least one chronic disease registry, the most common being hypertension.

More than 80 per cent of the deceased were on three or more chronic disease registries.

Conditions of deceased (BC Centre for Disease Control – Chronic Disease Dashboard)

The report states that many chronic conditions impact mobility and cognition, which may have had a hand in their death, but this review could not definitively determine if this was the case.

“This report includes recommendations that the panel believes will help build resilience and greatly reduce the likelihood of death in future heat events,” said Michael Egilson, chair of the death review panel.

“It was important that we focus both on the immediate threat and on longer-term prevention strategies, and the final report includes measures that can be actioned now
and changes to be made in the years to come.”

The panel recommended three key points to help reduce heat-related deaths: A coordinated provincial heat alert response system, ensuring vulnerable populations are identified and supported during extreme heat events and implementing prevention and longer-term risk mitigation strategies.

By the end of June 2022, B.C. hopes to have the pilot of a heat alert response system deployed province-wide, and next summer they will analyze and evaluate the pilot.

View the full report below:

Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca. Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.