Making Philippine Hospitals Climate-Smart

Climate-smart health care refers to a set of interventions that bring together climate-change and disaster-risk mitigation efforts

Sec. Emmanuel de Guzman of the Climate Change Commission (second from the left, seated) poses with the participants of the meeting of stakeholders on climate-smart hospitals held at Green Sun Events Place, Makati City, on December 19, 2018.

Hospitals play a significant role in addressing the ill-health effects of climate change. At the same time, they also significantly contribute to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. This double-challenge makes hospitals a critical sector to be transformed into being climate- smart.

Climate-smart health care refers to a set of interventions that bring together climate-change and disaster-risk mitigation efforts. These involve seven types of interventions: (1) making facilities more energy efficient through reduction in energy consumption and energy conservation; (2) green building design; (3) alternative energy generation using clean, renewable sources onsite (e.g., solar panels); (4) making hospital transportation more efficient; (5) providing sustainably grown local food for staff and patients; (6) reducing, reusing, and recycling waste; and (7) conserving water (e.g., through cisterns that catch rain water) and avoiding bottled water when safe alternatives exist.

The Climate Change Commission launched the Green Hospitals Initiative in October 2017 by forging partnerships with key industry leaders in turning hospitals into climate-smart institutions. I was invited to participate in the December 19, 2018 meeting held at the Green Sun Events place in Makati City which brought together around 30 stakeholders who strategized on how to access the Global Climate Fund (GCF) to assist in making local health facilities more climate-smart.

The day’s stock-taking showed that a few hospitals have started adopting these technologies but their scale is too small, thus the need for a focal project to expand adoption. The application for GCF funding is expected to lead to an ever-widening network of adopters.

To be truly transformative, support for policy and regulatory reform is needed, including the drafting of executive and administrative orders, regulations, and local ordinances; development of guidelines for hospital management, staff, and patients to change their behavior; and harmonization of climate smart standards on licensing and accreditation.

Metrics and knowledge management is also critical. Because of the novelty of climate-smart technologies, appropriate local performance indicators and targets are needed, as do impact evaluation exercises. Recognition awards of climate smart design, policies, and practices should also be given priority.

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About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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