It’s something Albertans know and experience, but data is definitely needed to back it up., explains Martina Vergouwen.
The two researchers first compiled all cases of orthopedic and trauma procedures from Calgary hospitals over the past 11 years, approximately 41,000 cases, as well as weather data from Calgary International Airport and the air traffic system. road weather information for Alberta for the same period.
With the help of meteorologist David Spence and statistician Eric Sayre, they then developed a model to predict ice formation based on freeze-thaw cycles.
The researchers ultimately compared the weather data with the volume of surgeries at specific times of the year.
Result: the volume of orthopedic traumas, such as falls, increases significantly during the winter. For example, when there is ice forming for three consecutive days and snow falling on the third day, the number of orthopedic and traumatological operations increases by 37%.
According to Neil White, half of the 41,000 cases studied were hip or ankle fractures. He adds that in Calgary there are between 70 and 80 more unscheduled orthopedic operations in December than in October.
These numbers are staggering, he says.
Improving hospital management
The researchers say the tool they’ve developed could help hospitals better organize their human resources by predicting which times of the year will be busier.
They explain that it is not uncommon for the number of orthopedic and traumatological surgeries to exceed the resources available in hospitals during peak periods.
Everyone knew, empirically, that we could predict how busy we would be in the hospital based on the weather, but we never plan based on that. It always created the same surprise, laments Neil White.
I wonder how the public would react if they knew that the treatment they receive for a broken ankle depends on the time of year they get injured., he adds.
Martina Vergouwen explains that, when the volume of operations increases, more operations have to be carried out outside regular working hours, such as at night, which is not without consequences.
When we operate at midnight, we are more tired. So it brings more stress. It also costs more because you have to pay the staff to work at night, not to mention that studies have shown that the results are sometimes worse when operating at night., she explains.
Information and prevention
The researchers are also developing a fall prevention index to calculate the risk of slipping and falling based on weather conditions.
UV on our phone. We could see, on our device, that the risk of falling is high, for example […] and take appropriate action”,”text”:”It’s a bit like the air quality index or the UV index on our phone. We could see, on our device, that the risk of falling is high, for example […] and take appropriate action”}}”>It’s a bit like the air quality index or the UV index on our phone. We could see, on our device, that the risk of falling is high, for example […] and take appropriate action, explains Neil White.
The scientists’ next step in their research will be to validate their findings by analyzing data from other Alberta cities in order to establish an action plan with authorities and hospitals in the province.