Innovation in Public Health Care Institutions: The Case of Green Hospitals

Innovation in Public Health Care Institutions: The Case of Green Hospitals

Arminda Paço (University of Beira Interior, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8348-8.ch020
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Abstract

The increasing importance of environmental sustainability for all society and for healthcare systems in particular is unquestionable. Thus, in recent years, hospitals and health centres began to arm themselves with techniques and equipment to reduce environmental impact, because it was found that these institutions contributed greatly to environmental deterioration. This chapter seeks to present the creation and implementation of an environmental sustainability programme in a hospital focused on saving energy and water resources, demonstrating that there are economic and competitive opportunities behind the environmental improvements. This would allow the hospital to become more competitive and to become the first green hospital in Portugal. The focus of the chapter is the study of attitudes and behaviours of staff regarding to the environmental sustainability campaign followed by the hospital.
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Introduction

Given the increasing importance that is being given to environmental sustainability in general in an attempt to address climate change, it seems appropriate that this could be extended to include the healthcare system (Morley, 2012). This sector can be of crucial importance in helping societies in the adaptation to the effects of climate change and the risk it brings to human health, as well as to play an essential role in reducing the effects of pollution by taking steps to limit its own environmental footprint (Karliner & Guenther, 2011).

Thus, in recent years, hospitals and health centres began to arm themselves with techniques and equipment to reduce environmental impact, because, meanwhile it was found that these institutions contributed greatly to environmental deterioration. Some experts estimate that hospitals spend up to about 2.5 times more energy than an office building of the same type. Johnson (2010) enforce this idea stating that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a healthcare organisation is the second most energy-intensive commercial building type, behind the food service industry. This high level of energy use is justifiable, given the level of demands placed on hospitals; thus, hospitals generate a great quantity of solid waste, require a huge quantity of water and have to pump in fresh air and operate continuously. Given the circumstances, the green movement has been pressuring the hospitals, and some of them have moved forward to address green issues. By that, the designated “green hospitals” are gaining importance, presenting innovative and creative projects, combining technology and environmental awareness (Paiva, 2013) proving that the industry of health care can contribute to friendly solutions to environment (Bilec, Geary, Ries, Needy & Cashion, 2010) and demonstrating that there are economic and competitive opportunities behind the environmental improvements.

An efficient management of energy resources makes possible to reduce the related costs, namely the electricity cost, besides helping to protect the environment. A more rational energy consumption is also essential for creating a model of sustainable and socially responsible development (Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, 2005). The question of sustainability is seen by Iyer (1999) as being multilateral and is defined as an institutional problem, not only because it clearly recognises the necessity to conceive adequate social mechanisms for regulating energy generation, but also because its implementation is crucial for challenging and changing the prevailing attitudes and values.

It can be said that green hospitals are those that have environmental concerns and respect the environment in several respects. One of these aspects has to do with the type of construction, which should be based on the concepts of Green Building (international standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - LEED) (Paiva, 2013). However not always is possible to comply with the principles of sustainability in construction, especially when it comes to buildings already constructed, so the hospitals have tried to intervene in other areas where it is easier to implement environmental practices, such as the energy resources saving. This study seeks precisely to illustrate this case, presenting the creation and implementation of an environmental sustainability programme focused on saving energy and water resources. The greater focus will be given to the attitudes and behaviours of staff, regarding to the environmental sustainability campaign followed by a hospital.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Green Hospital: Health care organisation that has environmental concerns and respect the environment in several respects (building construction, energy saving, re-use and recycling, transportation, etc.).

Energy Conservation: Consists in reducing or going without a service to save energy (e.g. turning off a light).

Renewable Energy: Also called soft energy, consists in any naturally occurring, theoretically unlimited source of energy, as biomass, solar, wind, wave or hydroelectric power that is not derived from fossil or nuclear fuel.

CO2 Emissions: The emissions of carbon dioxide derive from the burning of fossil fuels such as gas, coal or oil. In a natural carbon cycle, carbon dioxide is re-absorbed by plants and trees. But as there is an excess of emissions, the effect of this extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the global warming.

Environmental Certification: Is a form of environmental regulation where an organisation can voluntarily choose to comply with predefined processes or objectives set forth by the certification service. Most certification services have a logo (commonly known as Eco label) which can be applied to products certified under their standards. This is seen as a form of corporate social responsibility.

Environmental Sustainability: Is related with the maintenance of the factors and practices that contribute to the quality of environment on a long-term basis.

Energy Efficiency: Consists in using less energy to provide the same service (e.g. replacing an incandescent lamp with a compact fluorescent lamp).

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