|Posted on September 24, 2015 at 10:10 PM|
This article appeared in the Health Advocate published by AHHA in August 2015
By Fiona Armstrong
Climate and Health Alliance
Back in 2012, the Australia arm of a newly established global network of green and healthy hospitals was established in Australia.
Environmental health expert Dr Peter Orris, senior advisor to Health Care without Harm, was in Sydney to launch the initiative, at the inaugural Think Tank on Greening the Health Care Sector, now an annual event co-hosted by Climate and Health Alliance and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.
The Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network was then made up of member institutions representing the interests of around 4,000 hospitals and health services; now, with the commencement of an online platform to support this virtual community, membership of the global network has grown to over 12,500 hospitals and health centres. This dynamic community of people and institutions is working together in a giant and dynamic global collaboration to share knowledge, skills, tools, and resources to build a global best practice in sustainability in healthcare, and accelerate the transition of health care to low carbon operations.
Starting from just a handful of members a few years ago, the Pacific region (Australia and New Zealand) now has over 150 hospitals and health services from across Australia and New Zealand as part of the network. We hope to dramatically grow the participation of Australian and New Zealand hospitals and health services in coming years, and see the lessons from this region as potentially cutting edge sustainable healthcare practices.
Our innovative workforce, coupled with the growing realisation among health service leaders and managers regarding cost savings and reputational benefits, is likely to see greater investment in efforts to realise these gains, offering Australia and Zealand the chance to be world leaders.
We already have amazing work being done: Austin Health in Victoria has implemented a comprehensive environmental management strategy, with initiatives underway across several facilities to improve energy efficiency, limit waste, reduce water use, and create green outdoor healing spaces, among other things. Specific gains include the diversion of tonnes of food waste from landfill and almost 20% of all waste now being recycled. Mater Health Services in Queensland has saved almost $1 million and around 400 tonnes of carbon emissions in one year with smarter electricity contracts and energy efficiency. They have also implemented important staff engagement campaigns to encourage participation into pro environmental behaviours. St Vincent’s Health Australia has reduced energy consumption in one of its largest hospitals by 30%, and plans to invest in further efficiencies to reduce total energy consumption by 30-40%.
Across the Tasman, Counties Manukau Health (CM Health) are recycling paper, glass and electronic waste, cutting carbon emissions and organising car-pooling for staff. CM Health has saved over $100,000 so far through their waste reduction program, and reduced their carbon footprint by 4% every year since 2012, and are the first Australasian participant in 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge – a new campaign launched in May to encourage hospitals across the world to set their own emissions reduction targets - to reduce their carbon footprint and protect public health from climate change.
Other participants in the 2020 Challenge include Gundersen Health System (USA), Hospital Albert Einstein and Hospital Sirio Libanes (Brazil), Dignity Health Care (USA), Kaiser Permanente (USA), NHS Sustainable Development Unit (England), Virginia Mason Health System (USA), Western Cape Government Health (South Africa), and Yonsei University Health System (South Korea). And the group continues to grow. Several of the initial participants, such as Kaiser Permanente, Yonsei University Health and the NHS have already committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% or more by 2020. All have also pledged to encourage public policy, economic development, and investment strategies that move their societies away from fossil fuel dependency and toward healthy energy alternatives.
While the Challenge offers incentives through the spirit of competition and recognition of achievements through awards, the ethic of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network is really all about collaboration. It is an inspiring demonstration of an emerging global trend towards cooperation, rather than competition; of sharing, rather than secrecy; with an emphasis on community, rather than individuals.
As we wrestle with the challenges of a resource-constrained, climate changed world, this kind of cooperation can enable us to build on our strengths, support others, and in doing so build trust, resilience, respect, understanding, and power, while boosting quality of care, realising financial savings and ensuring public health and environmental protections.
It is also the case that cooperation is fun, and personally rewarding – through my own involvement I’ve seen people inspired, friendships develop, ambitions realised and then renewed through this relentlessly positive and supportive network. When people of shared passion (and for many, concern about our future is a deep and profound passion) come together, change is not only possible, but from our experience, it becomes exponential and, we hope, unstoppable.
For more information about CAHA, visit www.caha.org.au; about Global Green and Healthy Hospitals visit: www.greenhospitals.net and about the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge, visit: http://greenhospitals.net/en/2020hcccpledge/