GIFU – Four elderly patients at a hospital in Gifu Prefecture have died after the air conditioning unit in their rooms broke down amid a heat wave that continues to grip the country, police and the medical institution said Tuesday.
Y&M Fujikake Daiichi Hospital, however, denied that the air conditioning failure was the cause of death, saying that fans were put into use after the air conditioning units malfunctioned.
The police received a report on Monday evening that four people had died at the hospital possibly due to heatstroke after the air conditioners broke down. They have since launched an investigation, suspecting it could possibly be a case of professional negligence resulting in deaths.
The two men and two women aged 83 to 85, who were staying on the hospital’s third and fourth floors, died between 8:40 p.m. Sunday and 11:35 a.m. Monday, according to the police.
The hospital, which specializes in treating the elderly, said the air conditioners broke down on Aug. 20 and that it has since used nine fans in an attempt to keep patients cool because repairs were expected to take about a month.
“The patients’ conditions could have taken a sudden turn for the worse at any time,” Yosei Fujikake, chief of the hospital, told reporters while denying any link between the air conditioners’ failure and their deaths.
Prefectural and city government officials inspected the hospital on Tuesday based on the law concerning hospital management.
The temperature in the city of Gifu rose to as high as 36.2 Celsius on Sunday, according to a local meteorological observatory.
Japan is in the midst of record-setting summer heat that killed 133 people in July, a high for a single month. In the week through Sunday, 5,890 people were taken to hospitals for heatstroke or heat exhaustion, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
While it is common to suffer heat exhaustion and heatstroke outside, people can also get those symptoms while indoors. Elderly people are said to be particularly vulnerable because they tend to have limited ability to control their body temperatures.