White House issues guidelines on climate change for hospitals

The White House today issued new guidelines for hospitals to respond to the effects of climate change.

Leaders within the healthcare industry met for a summit at the White House Monday to endorse the report, "Primary Protection: Enhancing Health Care Resilience for a Changing Climate," and commit to the precautions it recommends. These include:

  • Locating emergency departments away from areas susceptible to flooding

  • Developing contingency plans for electrical and water supply generation

  • Working with local officials on road plans to ensure medical professionals and patients can reach hospitals during a weather emergency

  • Building or rebuilding hospitals to better prepare them for extreme weather events, as noted in FierceHealthcare's special report, 4 ways hospitals can prepare for climate change

Major healthcare organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, the American Hospital Association and Inova Health System were present for the summit, according to USA Today.

The guidelines devote a subsection to the lessons of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which caused major disruptions for New York City's healthcare infrastructure and led to a commitment by the city to prepare its healthcare system against similar future events. Some of those initiatives include retrofitting all hospital buildings in the city's floodplain to bring them up to amended building codes and more stringent construction codes for new hospital facilities, according to the guidelines.  

"We have a responsibility to do everything possible to slow the effects of global warming, protect our planet's future and safeguard the health of our communities," Brenna Davis, director of Sustainability at Virginia Mason, said in a statement. "There are significant opportunities for hospitals and health systems to make a lasting difference for current and future generations."

Some hospitals are already actively working on several methods of safeguarding against climate change and reducing their environmental impact, including redesigning facilities, rethinking waste disposal and committing to more sustainable energy consumption, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf)
- read the article
- check out the statement