27 May 2024, 13:22
Carolina Kyllmann

German health minister calls for better heatwave preparedness ahead of summer

dpa / Handelsblatt

Germany's health minister Karl Lauterbach has called on the country’s hospitals and care facilities to improve their preparedness against the negative health effects posed by increasingly common heatwaves, as well as to step up action to minimise heat-related deaths. "Climate change will make heat protection a permanent problem," Lauterbach said after meeting with health experts on 24 May, dpa reported in an article published by business daily Handelsblatt. In his list of recommendations, Lauterbach proposed education and awareness-raising programmes for staff and patients, and made suggestions for cool or shaded areas and water supplies.

Heat warnings for the general population from the country's meteorological service DWD would also play an increasingly important role in future, the minister said. He added that cell phone notifications were also being considered for warnings where immediate action was required. The upcoming European football cup that is hosted by Germany would provide an opportunity to test warning schemes for the large crowds expected to attend the tournament across the country in June.

Without systemic preparation, "thousands of citizens will die unnecessarily every summer," Lauterbach said. The German Foundation for Patient Rights (DSP) called for financial support from the government, dpa reported. Germany presented its first ever "heat protection plan" in the summer of 2023, with the aim of halving heat-related deaths. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country’s disease control authority, recorded 3,200 heat-related deaths last year, compared to 4,500 in 2022.

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