Last August some places – such as Beja – reached 45.4 degrees. However, a spokesman from the Health Ministry has admitted that the seven hospitals chosen to be fitted with air-conditioning will not receive the equipment until the autumn.
Luís Filipe Pereira justified the delay, saying: “There are rules and prices in public tenders that have to be complied with and this does not allow for the immediate installation of air conditioning in those designated health centres and hospitals.”
The ministry has announced the opening of a public bid to install air conditioning in Faro, Barlavento, Cova da Beira, Elvas, Fundão, Portalegre, Évora hospitals, and the Centro Hospital da Cova da Beira. According to Pereira, last summer’s heatwave, which hit Portugal between the end of July and August 15, caused the deaths of 1,953 people – 14 succumbed to the high temperatures and the rest died from complications arising from illness.
This year, in a bid to cut the number of people suffering from heat related illnesses, a government led contingency plan, in force between May 15 and September 30, will co-ordinate local authorities in the event of a similar heatwave. Meanwhile, hospitals are preparing a rapid response plan and health centres are trying to identify those most vulnerable to heat before the onset of an emergency.