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Team examining hospitals’ capacity during wildfires

By SHERAZ SADIQ, Oregon Public Broadcasting To see also : COVID-19 Equity Financing Opportunity and Health Immunization RFA # 40624.

Published: August 6, 2022, 7:28 p.m

Scientists at the Oregon Institute of Technology were recently awarded a $1 million grant from the federal government that could lead to research that improves health outcomes in Southern Oregon due to wildfire smoke.

Since 2019, a team of Oregon Tech scientists has been studying the capacity of hospitals in the Rogue Valley to handle patients who end up with respiratory problems during the wildfires as air quality declines.

“If it’s in what we call ‘purple,’ which is very good air quality, it’s possible that the hospital will exceed its capacity by up to 70 percent,” Kyle Chapman, a professor of sociology and population health. at the Oregon Institute of Technology, told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Chapman and his colleagues will now expand their focus to include admissions due to heart conditions experienced during wildfires in addition to respiratory illnesses such as asthma, which fire smoke can worsen.

“We have a feeling that some other conditions related to heart disease, which are more widespread than chronic respiratory disease, are also big players here,” he said.

Chapman said seeing how hospital admissions change during wildfires could lead to changes in staffing levels, similar to what has been done over the summer, when emergency room visits increase.

The federal grant will also allow scientists to install new monitors outside and inside homes in Klamath Falls, Ore., that can reveal chemicals in wildfire smoke, a new area of ​​research that has grown in importance as wildfires grow more intense and spread. beyond the forest to threaten homes and businesses.

“Rather than just looking at the bulk size of how much smoke is in the air … what we build gives an indication of where it comes from, what kind of things are burning in the fire that creates the smoke and, potentially, how dangerous that smoke is for human health,” he said. Adelaide Clark, a former professor of chemistry at the Oregon Institute of Technology who is now on the faculty at Providence College in Providence, R.I.

Last year, Klamath Falls had 38 days when air quality was found to be unhealthy for all groups of people, tying the record set in 2018 for the city, according to a newly released report on wildfire smoke trends from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. .

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