Are you prepared for climate change?

Canadian health facilities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, which can disrupt facilities’ services and care delivery. Extreme weather events can create emergencies by damaging infrastructure, compromising access to critical resources and threatening the safety of patients, visitors and staff.

Climate change also increases risks to Canadians from some vector, water and food-borne diseases and it is expected to worsen air quality in many communities. Taken together, the impacts on health from these climate-related hazards can have significant implications for the demand for health care facility services. The World Health Organization (WHO)

has asked decision-makers to prepare for the impacts of climate change through efforts to increase resiliency in the health sector.1

This entails mainstreaming climate

change into risk assessments, considering climate change when developing plans and programs and engaging in broader community discussions and initiatives around climate-related issues. For example, health care and public

health officials can prepare by assessing the risks from extreme weather events, increasing their readiness to manage climate-related infectious disease outbreaks or atypical cases and increasing their understanding of how gradual shifts in weather can impact an institution’s risk profile. We have only to look to southern

Alberta for tangible evidence of what can happen when an extreme weather event strikes. In late June 2013, several hospitals and tertiary care facilities were shut down due to the flooding in and around Calgary. Alberta Health Services closed the hospital in High River and ordered an evacuation; minor injury nursing services were offered at the fire hall. Surgery schedules had to be scaled back, and many elective surgeries were cancelled. Residents from some of the area’s facilities were transferred to safer operational sites until the hospital was able to reopen. In all, it appeared over 100,000 Albertans were forced from their homes due to the flooding and three residents of High River lost their lives. It was reported by the Canadian Press that the Canmore Hospital was entirely surrounded by a moat and


the basement had flooded, putting an end to all food service from the kitchen, which was located in the basement.2 During extreme weather events and

disasters, organisations can reduce the risks of climate change through proper planning and careful management of critical resources. A resilient health care organisation also commits to sustainable practices, such as water and energy conservation, and promotes active transportation, and local food procurement. Investing in such activities can reduce operating costs and increase resilience in the broader community.

Toolkit To help health organisations evaluate their preparedness and become more resilient to climate-related risks, the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care, together with Nova Scotia Environment and Health

Canada, developed the ‘Health Care Facility Climate Change Resiliency Toolkit which includes three components: a resiliency assessment checklist, a facilitator’s guide and numerous online resources. The free and easy online registration, at resiliency, grants users access to national and international climate change articles and links, resiliency profiles on forward- thinking health care organisations that have already faced the reality and hardship of climate change impacts, and publications from leading authorities including the WHO. The Assessment Checklist includes

questions to aid the measurement of resiliency in many organisational areas including emergency management, facilities management, health care services and supply chain management. Completion of the checklist, by officials

Kent Waddington

Kent Waddington is co-founder and Communications Director of the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care and an executive leadership coach. He has spent much of the past 16 years

engaged in helping members of the Canadian health services sector as they develop and adopt more environmentally-

responsible practices within their organisations. He has developed program content and collateral for numerous provincial and

national environmental initiatives and is the environmental advisor to one of Canada’s largest Fortune 500 companies, supporting health care sites across Canada.

Linda Varangu

Linda Varangu is the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care’s Executive Director and has been empowering health care

facilities to improve environmental stewardship since the 1980’s. Linda has led projects to reduce waste and use of toxic

chemicals, provide healthy local foods, save energy and water and help facilities prepare for the impacts of climate change. She has contributed to a healthier planet by helping build

coalitions, networks, social enterprises and not-for-profits with an environmental purpose.


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