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Environmentally friendly healthcare

Green hospitals.. Awareness conferences to meet the patients’ variable needs

Based on the hospital’s mission to maintain the safety of healthy individuals to prevent them from getting sick, hospitals have been paying further attention to the internal and external environment, landscaping, etc. Medical practices start with the moment the patient is admitted to the hospital to the disposal of medicines and medical waste in the safest way possible. The role of sustainable healthcare institutions is not limited to helping the environment only, but also includes creating a bright future for patients, medical staff and even various stakeholders. Moreover, modern methodologies have been adopted in the health field and have been achieving great goals that are consistent with the true concept of the medical mission.

On November 6, 2022, countries came together at “COP27” to take action towards achieving the world’s collective climate goals. The conference took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt and lasted for two weeks, with the participation of world leaders and representatives of more than 190 countries.

It was considered one of the most successful climate summits ever held in its history, given that it discussed important climate issues and ways to reduce carbon emissions that seriously affect the entire planet. Health and hospital-related issues were also addressed in the summit deliberations, in search of solutions to reduce the effects of medical waste, and stressing the importance of transforming hospitals into green buildings and methods as an effective contributor to environmental protection.

The medical sector is one of major sectors that follow the “going green” trend through building green hospitals. In mid-2022, H.E. Dr. Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, the Egyptian Minister of Health and Population, announced that Egypt aims to promote green health facilities, which rely on clean and renewable energy, and seeks to optimize the recycling of medical waste, as well as reduce the waste of supplies and medicines, through a strategy carried out by all state institutions. Dubai also hosted the 45th World Hospital Federation’s World Hospital Congress, in which most Arab countries and the international community took part, as they are strongly moving towards adopting green environments.

The “Green Hospital” concept is based on providing healthcare without causing any harm to the environment and the healthcare worker. The importance of the green hospital lies in the fact that caring for the environment is no less than caring for the safety and well-being of patients. The concept of eco-friendly hospitals is growing significantly in the Arab world; in fact, green hospitals aim to save energy, conserve resources and be environmentally friendly.

In the health sector, the “Going Green” concept that is beginning to redefine how healthcare facilities are built to protect the environment while saving human lives. The greater the amount of energy consumed in a hospital, the greater the release of toxic wastes to the environment, causing damage which may put human lives at risk of other diseases and death.

Green technology in hospitals

Experts say that cost-effective lighting suitable for healthcare will have a promising future in the health sector. Efficient lighting is a proven technology to significantly reduce electricity demand. Proper lighting can improve staff productivity, patient healing, and the use of space in healthcare facilities. In addition to cost, energy, and maintenance savings, LED lights can provide a healthier and more comfortable environment for patients and staff. It is also believed that workers’ health, satisfaction, attention, and consequently performance are improved with the help of natural light.

Proper timing of the light exposure is critical as brighter daytime light conditions are associated with better mood and sleep quality. Research has shown that the use of appropriate lighting can improve a patient’s sleep by 8%. With the money saved through the use of efficient lighting, it is possible to invest in equipment that facilitates and improves the treatment process and raises performance level.  On average, a green building will use 25%-35% less energy than a conventional building, which reduces operation costs and saves money that can be used for other important issues. Sustainability companies significantly outperform their counterparts by 16% over the long-term. Green buildings, particularly those with improved indoor environmental quality, are being shown to positively impact human health and performance. Sustainable technology helps achieve the goals of social responsibility of the health facility, hence, it can obtain a green certification from its local authority. By adding 2% of the budget to sustainable building, the payback value can be up to 10 times the amount invested.

The importance of the green transition

The shift to constructing sustainable healthcare facilities is largely centered on reducing the carbon burden in hospitals while ensuring that the occupants – staff and patients – are kept safe. Hospitals have started building self-made solar power stations to generate clean and renewable energy. Healthcare providers can replace mercury sphygmomanometers and thermometers with safer and accurate substitutes. Incineration is still one of the most popular methods for medical waste disposal, but with the appearance of more modern alternatives, steam sterilizers are also gaining increasing popularity in the healthcare sector

The Dubai Health Authority revealed that it has developed a plan to transform government and private hospitals in the emirate to become green “environmentally friendly”, stressing that it is in the stage of studying the implementation mechanism, and setting the general features of the transformation, to enter into force after its approval. This came on the sidelines of Dubai hosting the activities of the 45th World Hospital Congress, under the slogan “Achieving sustainability and the future of the hospital sector in 2030”, held on November 10, 2022, in the presence of more than 1,000 participants, representing more than 60 countries from different continents of the world. 

The International Hospital Federation (IHF) stressed the importance of raising awareness and providing support to hospital managers to ensure the delivery of sustainable healthcare globally. An important global issue, entitled “Addressing climate change as an integral part of healthcare delivery”, was confirmed. 

The Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the conference, Dr. Ramadan Al Balushi, said that the Authority has developed a plan to gradually transform the emirate’s hospitals to become green and “environmentally friendly” in terms of energy consumption and emissions, sustainable healthcare, the application of best practices and innovations. In addition to smart solutions and digital technology in the health sector, to provide sustainable health services to members of society, and to ensure their continuity during and after crises. For her part, the Vice-Chairman of the Organizing Committee and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the International Federation of Hospitals Conference, Dr. Farida Al-Khaja, stated that the standards of green hospitals will focus mainly on relying on solar energy as a source of energy, reducing radiation emissions, and using chemicals.

A growing pioneering trend

Many countries have been relying on a modern system to assess green hospitals. The system, which may need to undergo a set of revisions during the coming period, includes standards through which green healthcare buildings can be evaluated. 

Given the strong link between sustainability issues and the green architecture, this research aims to study the possibility of developing the system so that it assesses sustainability in a comprehensive manner in healthcare buildings and not only green hospitals, by studying the concept of sustainability and its requirements in healthcare buildings. Hence, the basic elements of sustainability in those buildings should be determined, and the new evaluation system should be reviewed in order to determine the critical criteria required for green hospital buildings. 

The healthcare industry is among the most carbon-intensive service sectors in the industrialized world. It is responsible for around 5% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions; this launched the trend of making healthcare services go green. Studies have found that emissions from fossil fuels are the dominant cause of global warming.

On the mission of achieving sustainability, hospitals have their sights set on one mammoth target: becoming carbon neutral — achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. And while the mission is long, challenging and often fraught with obstacles, hospitals have an obligation to embrace sustainability due to the enormity of their carbon footprint and their core commitment to health and healing, according to leaders in the decarbonization movement.

Achieving a green future is a global imperative, therefore, this approach is expanding in the Arab world and worldwide. According to the Indian Green Building Council, a green hospital building can be defined as one which enhances patient well-being, aids the curative process, while utilizing natural resources in an efficient, environment friendly manner.

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