The continuing heat wave has prompted partially air conditioned mental hospitals in Virginia and the District to take extra precautions to protect patients.
At Western State Hospital in Staunton, Va., record temperatures have made the situation "acute," according to Coen Plasherg, the hospital's director. At least 40 of the hospital's 1,300 patients have been treated for heat prostration, Plasberg said, while many outdoor sporting activities have been conceled.
Although the Virginia General Assembly last year allocated $17 million to install air conditioning at five state mental hospitals, Western State and Southwestern State Hospital in Marion were not included in the appropriation.
Both hospitals are west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where the weather is usually more moderate and the situation not considered as critical as in such hospitals as Eastern State in Williamsburg, where two or three patration.
There have been no cases of heat stroke at Eastern State this year, according to the director, Dr. Kurt T. Schmidt. "So far, we've been lucky," Schmidt. "I really have no explanation for it." Air conditioning is being installed at the hospital, Schmidt said, and should be completed in six weeks.
At St. Elizabeths Hospital, the federally owned facility in Southeast Washington, only six of the 26 buildings, many of which were built in the early part of the century, have air conditioning.
About 1,300 of the 1,945 patients still live in "poor and life-endangering conditions, including unrelieved heat," according to Dr. Roger Peele, acting superintendent.
While there have been no deaths from heat, Peele said he has ordered susceptible patients - the elderly or physically debilitated - transferred from non-air conditioned residential buildings to air conditioned facilities.
In Maryland, however, state mental health officials said no hospitals have reported heat-related illnesses among patients.