This could be the first time in history that climate change is not only treated as a global problem to solve but also as a clinical diagnosis to treat. A woman from British Columbia is said to be the world’s first “climate change” patient after her hospitalization over the summer.
The woman, who is in her 70s, received the diagnosis while being treated for the effects of extreme heat at the Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson back in June, reports North Shore News.
At the time, the province was in the grip of the worst heatwave on record. The woman was one of many others also being treated at the hospital, as the extreme heat and lack of access to air conditioning made their existing health problems more severe, the outlet says.
Things only got worse as wildfires hit the region just days later, blanketing it in smoke and making it even harder to recover. This, combined with the fact that the BC Interior experiences some of the country’s worst effects of air pollution according to Health Canada, made it clear to the hospital staff that their patients were suffering as a direct result of climate change.
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Dr. Kyle Merritt told the outlet that for the first time in his 10-year career, he added the words “climate change” to his patient’s chart. “If we’re not looking at the underlying cause, and we’re just treating the symptoms, we’re just gonna keep falling further and further behind,” he said.
Merritt is one of nearly 40 doctors and nurses at the Kootenay Lake Hospital who are part of a group called Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health. Their mission is to “better human health by protecting the planet.”
Without initiatives like these, we could be heading for irreversible consequences as a result of climate change. One study published in the summer predicts that most of the world will be uninhabitable in a matter of decades and that northern Canada will become a popular place to live as a result.
Perhaps this is the wake-up call we need to prove that climate change isn’t a distant problem but an immediate threat.