Global green and healthy hospitals network launched in South Africa

Submitted by: Jonathan Ramayia, Monday, May 27, 2013

<p>The Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network aims to encourage hospitals to run greener practices (Image credit: <a href="http://www.123rf.com" title="http://www.123rf.com">http://www.123rf.com</a>)</p>

The Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network aims to encourage hospitals to run greener practices (Image credit: http://www.123rf.com)

GroundWork, is working with and encouraging South Africa Hospitals to join the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network (GGHHN).  GroundWork, a South African non-governmental organisation (NGO), has embarked on this drive in collaboration with the international NGO Health Care Without Harm the founders of the GGHHN. 

“There is a strong link between the health sector and the environment. If we believe we face an environmental crisis through climate change, then everybody has a responsibility to address their own climate change footprint and their impact on the environment. The medical sector has historically been a very polluting industry”, said Rico Euripidou, Environmental Health Campaigner at groundWork.

Euripidou also noted that the climate and health link worked both ways and that the impact was felt in both directions, “as climate change takes hold, the biophysical environment will change in a way that will impact on human health, which will put pressure on health systems all over the world”.

The GGHHN was started by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), an international coalition of hospitals and health care systems, professionals, community groups, labour unions, religious groups and other players. The Network serves as a virtual community for hospitals and health systems to set achievable climate and environmental health targets and chart progress in achieving measurable outputs, while sharing information and trying to find solutions to their problems, which is often replicable from one hospital to another.

The GGHHN is a network premised on the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Agenda which itself sets out to support existing efforts around the world in order to promote greater sustainability and environmental health in the health sector in order to strengthen health systems globally.

Ten goals of the Agenda

The idea is for hospitals around the world to endorse the Agenda by committing to begin implementing at least two of its goals, while improving their environmental performance and contribution to environmental health year by year.  Hospitals and health systems can join the network at no cost.

The ten goals of the network are as follows:

  1. Leadership: Prioritize Environmental Health
  2. Chemicals: Substitute Harmful Chemicals with Safer Alternatives
  3. Waste: Reduce, Treat and Safely Dispose of Healthcare Waste
  4. Energy: Implement Energy Efficiency and Clean, Renewable Energy Generation
  5. Water: Reduce Hospital Water Consumption and Supply Potable Water
  6. Transportation: Improve Transportation Strategies for Patients and Staff
  7. Food: Purchase and Serve Sustainably Grown, Healthy Food
  8. Pharmaceuticals: Safely Manage and Dispose of Pharmaceuticals
  9. Buildings: Support Green and Healthy Hospital Design and Construction
  10. Purchasing: Buy Safer and More Sustainable Products and Materials

Euripidou notes that there are several ways in which hospitals can become “greener”. One of the major improvements that can be made is in the area of waste. Hospitals are large generators of waste, some of which is toxic when released into the environment. Mercury has for decades been used in the health sector in thermometers and sphygmomanometers and its emissions are particularly harmful when they enter water bodies, impacting water quality, and ultimately fish. groundWork has successfully worked with the KZN Health Department to phase out mercury use in various health applications.

Euripidou explained that energy is another area in which hospitals can reduce their impact on the environment, where coal boilers can be replaced with more efficient and less polluting alternatives such as renewable electric heaters with solar water heaters.

Joining the network

Any hospital can become a member of the network. There are several advantages to becoming a member notes Euripidou, including learning from other hospitals doing good work. The website, www.greenhospitals.net features case studies from participating hospitals that have implemented green initiatives and serve as a resource for those who would like to implement similar initiatives.

The four steps for joining the network are outlined as follows and is available on the website’s join the network page:

  • STAGE 1: Join: Send a letter of intent to join and wait for a ‘welcome packet’
  • STAGE 2: Get started: Log on with the Username and Password received in your welcome packet. Submit descriptive data about your facility and the Agenda Goals you adopted online
  • STAGE 3: Activate and participate: Provide objectives and an action plan towards achieving the Agenda Goals on which you are working. Include baseline data.
  • STAGE 4: Track progress: Enter details about how you’ve progressed towards achieving your objectives. Include descriptive information and measurable outcomes.

HCWH’s  Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Fund is dedicated to supporting less well-resourced hospital and health systems as they strive to implement this agenda.

To encourage hospitals to become members of the Network, groundWork has been responsible for conducting various ‘Climate and Health’ round tables throughout South Africa. They will also conduct various climate and health campaigns directed at climate and health campaigners. At the provincial level they have engaged with the private health sectors and will continue to work with health care organisations to promote the network. “We are also working with the Rural Hospitals Health association and will adopt a ‘bottom up’ approach to reach out to hospitals to work towards the goals of the network”, said Euripidou.

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Jonathan Ramayia