Doctors should do more for sustainability in the workplace, association says
Doctors should also do more for sustainability, says the KNMG medical association. Not only because people are getting sick from pollution and climate change, but also because healthcare itself is very polluting. The organization wants to bring the issue to the forefront with its supporters next week as part of Green Week. The event will start on Monday evening with a webinar for which more than 600 physicians have already registered.
According to chairman René Héman, the main objective is to raise awareness among his colleagues, but the main lines on which progress can be made are already clear. The number of disposable items in the healthcare system must be reduced, and medications must be prescribed in more appropriate quantities.
In the past, medical supplies were thoroughly cleaned and reapplied after use, and in the future, it will be important to do this again as much as possible with more modern supplies. Many prescribed medications end up not being used. With smaller quantities, the consequences of delivery and destruction are also reduced.
Initiatives are already underway in both areas, but much more need to be done. They are inventoried with the goal that as many as possible can benefit from the experience. The knife ultimately cuts both ways, that’s the hope: People become less sick due to the environment and then less care is needed, which also reduces the pollution caused by the care, and therefore fewer people get sick.
According to KNMG, many doctors see patients with conditions caused by air pollution. "Think, for example, of asthma, chronic bronchitis, or cardiovascular disease. Figures from research institute Nivel show that nearly 1 million people with lung disease suffer from air pollution; more than 50,000 people even ended up in the hospital one or more times last year as a result." Héman points out that germs will also multiply more easily due to warming.
Meanwhile, the health institute RIVM calculated that the Dutch healthcare sector contributes about 7 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. "And in addition, 4 percent of all waste and 13 percent of raw material use in the Netherlands comes from healthcare."
The KNMG already drafted a code of conduct, stating that doctors have a responsibility to work toward a sustainable healthcare sector and healthy living environment.
Reporting by ANP