Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Best Environmental Practices in the Healthcare Sector

The healthcare sector and especially hospitals account for a massive,but often neglected and sometimes even ignored impact on the environment and face high costs for  energy consumption, water and disposal of wastes. We know that climate change has the capacity to produce severe consequences for human health.
There is hence a need for greener hospitals that are at the heart of the healthcare sector. Without compromising on patient's-safety and comfort, many efforts can be made behind the scenes by hospital management through the application of best available practices and technological innovations.
With changing times, the healthcare sector should demonstrate its commitment towards corporate environmental and social responsibility.
A lacking of best environmental practices within our hospitals could impact staff, patient and population safety and could also lead to additional costs and overuse of natural resources.
Ideally hospitals should consider not only the medical treatment of the patients but also ensure that the services provided correspond to national and international environmental standards.
It is therefore of high importance to improve environmental management in the healthcare sector with a holistic approach and without decreasing the quality of services.
Areas which can contribute to GREEN HOSPITALS
Energy Efficiency
Electricity consumption has been growing steadily in Hospitals. By reducing a hospital’s energy consumption, it is possible to achieve the twin benefits of saving money and ensuring a less polluted environment for the local community.
Best Practices:
• Monitor  energy consumption regularly by checking  electricity meters at least once a month
• Identify areas/ equipment having high energy consumption
• Implement measures such as installing energy-efficient equipment
• Use solar collectors for hot water
• Use night-time temperature lowering thermostats
• Install several small boilers instead of one large boiler for load dependent operation
• Install double glazed windows
• For air-conditioning, check specific room parameters (temperature, humidity, air exchange)
• Check that air flow reductions are in place in unused rooms
• Clean and change air_conditioner filters regularly
Waste Management
Hospitals could generate up to many kilogrammes of waste per bed per day if not properly managed. Medical waste incineration is a leading source of dioxin, mercury and other dangerous pollutants that threaten human health and the environment
Best Practices:
• Understand waste categories and segregation: domestic wastes (paper, glass, plastics, etc.); regulated medical waste (biohazardous waste, potentially infectious medical waste, biomedical waste, etc.); hazardous waste; low-level radioactive waste
• Promote waste recycling: paper, plastics, glass, batteries, etc
• Encourage composting of wastes such as grass, leaves, flowers, etc
• Track the treatment and disposal costs of waste from individual sections and departments
• Promote recycling of paper, X-ray films and solutions, packing material, etc
Water Conservation
Many parts of the world are water stressed, and the ever-increasing population intensifies the problem. The prudent use of this invaluable natural resource is essential from a resource conservation perspective. Water use is driven by the number of in-patients and out-patients, equipment used, facility size, number and types of services, facility age and maintenance requirements.
Best Practices:
• Check the water supply system for leaks and turn off unnecessary flows
• Install automatic water volume controls that operate independently of the water pressure to control the amount of water
• Recycle and reduce water use wherever possible, consistent with health requirements.
• Wash only full loads in the dishwasher
• Reuse the rinse water from the dishwasher as flush water in garbage disposal units
• Water plants early in the morning or in the evening
• Consider using low-volume irrigation, such as a drip system
• Adjust the irrigation schedule for seasonal changes
Good Housekeeping
Cleanliness in hospitals is an important issue. Cleaning products are a major contributor to indoor air quality issues in closed environments. Many contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can give rise to respiratory irritation, headaches and other symptoms for workers and building occupants.
Best Practices:
• Replace dust mops and cotton cloths with microfiber
• Purchase vacuum cleaners equipped with high-performance filters
• Vacuum before mopping
• Use advanced technology mop buckets to reduce the redistribution of dirt during cleaning
Toxic Materials
Healthcare institutions regularly use a significant amount of highly toxic materials. These toxins affect patients, hospital staff, and hospital visitors. The management of these materials is an essential part of a hospital’s day-to-day activities.
Best Practices:
• Examine all hospital departments and functional areas for the presence and use of toxic materials.
• Train the staff on how to safely use potentially hazardous substances.
• Check with pharmaceutical companies for specific information on proper disposal of expired pharmaceutical products
Green Purchasing
Healthcare facilities purchase thousands of different products requested by dozens of different departments. From eliminating unnecessary packaging, to seeking substitutes for products containing mercury or other toxic substances, purchasing decisions can have a major impact in providing environmentally friendly healthcare facilities.
Best Practices:
• Buy only what is needed (avoid unnecessary supplies)
• Buy in bulk rather than individually packaged items
• Buy recycled contents (office paper, paper towels, etc.)
• When purchasing new equipment, take their water and energy consumption into consideration
• Educate and train the purchasing department
• Use standard labels and choose the right suppliers
• Prefer reusable products to disposable products.

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