Hospitals confront climate change as patients sick from floods and fires crowd ERs


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The emergency room at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center was unprepared when triple-digit temperatures hit the Pacific Northwest this summer. Doctors competed to treat homeless people, elderly patients with chronic illnesses, and illnesses that were exacerbated by overdose of drug users.

Dr. Jeremy Hess, an emergency physician and professor of environment and profession, said: health University of Washington Science.

Doctors, nurses and hospitals are increasingly seeing patients suffering from climate-related problems, from overheating to wildfire smoke inhalation and even infectious diseases. One recent assessment predicts that annual heat deaths in the United States could reach nearly 60,000 by 2050.

For some Medical professionalThis increasing number of victims has stimulated consideration of the role of the medical industry in global warming. According to the US Energy Information Administration, US hospitals and medical centers consume more energy than any other industry, except for the food service industry. Hospitals consume 2.5 times more energy per square foot on average than typical office buildings. They also contribute to the pile of medical waste and release gases that damage the atmosphere used in surgery and other procedures.

However Healthcare sector I’m starting to respond. The Department of Health and Social Welfare’s newly established Climate Change and Health Disparity Department not only focuses on climate-related illnesses, but also states that it “works to reduce.” Greenhouse gas emissions According to climate activists, this office may help with regulatory changes that limit our commitment to sustainability.

While many US hospitals have already begun installing solar panels, others are trying to reduce surgical waste and phase out ozone-destroying chemicals. Activists are calling on the industry to reduce energy-intensive protocols, such as ventilation requirements that require high levels of air circulation, measured as changes in air per hour. They say they can be reduced without harming the patient.

“I think there is a perception among doctors that climate change can continue and worsen over time,” Hess said. “We don’t have to do everything else we can to reduce our footprint and improve sustainability. That’s where our health system wants to go. . “

However, the industry is working cautiously to avoid harm to patients and liability. “They don’t want to make mistakes, and part of not making mistakes is resistance to change,” said Dr. Matthew Meyer, co-chair of the University of Virginia’s Sustainability Commission.

The University of Vermont Medical Center was one of the first US hospital systems to focus on sustainability initiatives. By refurbishing and constructing structures to increase energy efficiency and operating offsite medical centers by 50% on renewable natural gas, we have succeeded in reducing emissions by approximately 9% since 2015. Some hospitals reduce waste by more than 60% through reuse and recycling.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente, a non-profit organization of managed care, is focused on greening energy consumption. By September 2020, all 39 hospitals and 727 clinics had achieved carbon neutrality. At most Kaiser Permanente hospitals, solar panels supply one-quarter to one-third of energy demand.

Kaiser Permanente will eventually generate enough electricity through solar technology to eliminate the need for diesel-powered backup generators in frequently used hospitals in areas where the grid is stressed. I am aiming. In 2017 and 2019, the closure of the California utility forced the medical network to evacuate the Santa Rosa Medical Center and power was cut off at the Valleyho Medical Center.

Seth Bulk, National Director of Energy and Utilities at Kaiser Permanente, said:

Increased energy sustainability has resulted in minor economic losses. Kaiser Permanente saves about $ 500,000 a year in electricity costs through grids and solar panels, Baruch College says. (KHN is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

It can be difficult to reach consensus on emission reduction steps. Anesthesiologist UVA Meyer convinces the hospital to phase out most of the use of desflurane, a common anesthetic that damages the ozone layer and is a powerful greenhouse gas. It took a month.

Meyer argued that other drugs could replace desflurane. However, critics warned that the most common alternative would delay the patient’s postoperative recovery when compared to desflurane. They said there was a way to neutralize excess desflurane in the operating room air without completely stopping it.

The “first harmless” spirit of medical care can also be an obstacle to reducing medical waste. A joint committee accrediting more than 22,000 US medical institutions has recently called for hospitals to use more disposable devices instead of disinfecting reusable devices.

The Commission’s main purpose is to reduce nosocomial infections, but the more disposable items there are, the less sustainable it is. According to one study, approximately 80% of US medical sector emissions come from manufacturers and their suppliers and distributors, including the manufacture of disposable medical devices.

Complicating the matter is that the Food and Drug Administration classifies ethylene oxide, a chemical required for sterilization of many devices, as a carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2019, health concerns could push the community to shut down facilities that use gas, leading to a shortage of clean medical devices.

A joint committee spokesman, Maureen Lions, said private accreditors do not have the authority to change regulations. Procurement of disposable and reusable devices is a supply chain issue and “the joint committee cannot assess compliance.”

For this reason, health care activists are lobbying for sustainability through policy changes. Health Care Without Harm, an environmental group, is trying to revoke state regulations that impose what is considered an excessively energy-intensive ventilation, humidification, and sterilization requirement.

In California, the group sought to change the medical facility code adopted state-wide in July. This requires higher ventilation standards in medical facilities. The group says no new standards are needed. High circulation rates are required in intensive care units, operating rooms, and isolation rooms, but there is no evidence to maintain such standards. hospitalRobyn Rothman, Associate Director of the State Policy Program at Health Care Without Harm, said. She cited a 2020 study by the American Society of Medical Engineering.

Hospital groups are resisting sustainability efforts because they bring more bureaucratic formalism and costs to hospitals, Rothman said.

The American Hospital Association, a group of experts affiliated with the American Hospital Association, has set sustainability goals to reduce emissions. However, existing regulations make it difficult to achieve many of them, says Karabrooks, Group’s Sustainability Program Manager.

For example, the Medicare & Medicaid Service Center requires backup diesel generators in hospitals that treat Medicaid and Medicare patients.

“Hospitals will not be able to eliminate the use of fossil fuels under current regulations,” Brooks said, but “hospitals are encouraged to work towards their goals within the given parameters. “.


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© 2021 Kaiser Health News.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Quote: In the hospital, patients get sick due to floods and fires, and the crowd ER (2021, October 4) is https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-10-hospitals-climate-patients-sick-crowd. I am facing climate change because I got it from html on October 4, 2021.

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