Healthcare systems and hospitals are one of the largest single contributors to emissions in the public sector. While public healthcare is a vital part of mitigating the impact of climate change on human health, it is also ironically one of the biggest offenders. It’s a high intensity industry. Energy consumption, hospital waste, procurement of goods and services, transport and travel, and the actual provision of clinical care all add to the environmental impact of a public health system.
CHS is focused on delivering high-quality, effective, person-centred care. We provide acute, sub-acute, primary and community-based health services to the ACT and Southern NSW, approximately 454 000 and 200 000 people respectively. We are also the only trauma centre between Sydney and Melbourne. Part of delivering high-quality, safe, effective and person-centred care means ensuring we provide care that is sustainable. As an organisation, we need to be conscious of our long-term role in providing care and equally the impact of our long-term presence on our surrounding environment.
ACT is committed to reducing emissions from electricity and gas consumption to net zero by 2045. We have developed a zero emissions pathway and masterplan which will enable us to achieve this goal. Over the last decade, we have made a concerted effort to transition our infrastructure to low and zero carbon and retrofit buildings to support lower emissions until such time that buildings are replaced as fully electric.
Within CHS, our biggest milestone will be the opening of the Critical Services Building, a 40,000sqm facility with a 5-star NABERS rating and Australia’s first fully electric tertiary hospital building.
The journey has not been without challenges, and there have been significant lessons learned, including:
• The complexity of retrofitting buildings and infrastructure reaching end-of-life.
• The conflict between climate adaptation, emergency management and disaster response, with resourcing and ‘over-engineering’.
• Best practice buildings design and standard inclusions.
• Balancing sustainability and environmental outcomes with continuity of quality health services.
As Australia continues its transition, these lessons are important to share not only for other healthcare systems facing similar challenges, but also for the infrastructure industry in general. We continue to improve, mitigate the risks of climate change, and reduce our contribution to carbon emissions. Collaboration and knowledge sharing between all levels of government, industry and academia will be critical to ensuring lasting, sustainable change.