Monday, April 18, 2011

GROUP INTRODUCES ‘PRIMER’ FOR IMPROVED HEALTH SERVICES

“In improving health care services, lawmakers today must also consider environmental safety,” said Merci Ferrer, Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) Executive Director.



This is in response to the news on 61 local bills promoting national health services approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives. Included in the approved bills are establishment of municipal hospitals, increasing bed capacity, and upgrading and modernizing hospitals.



“We welcome and laud this move by our lawmakers. Improvements in hospital services will redound to people’s health, especially so if these are for hospitals or clinics in the far-flung areas of the country where hospital services are either very limited or scarce,” said Ferrer. “But we’d like to remind our lawmakers, hospital administrators and health officials that in all these improvements, we need to make sure that the hospitals are not contributing to environmental pollution.”



The group recommends a PRIMER for providing quality health services.



Proper waste segregation – Each hospital need a dedicated waste management committee1 that will see to it that wastes are properly segregated and placed in its proper bins. “Waste segregation can help in lessening the volume of wastes produced in each hospital,” said Ferrer. “They also need to make sure that the infectious and pathological wastes are properly treated thru autoclave, microwave2 and other non-burn systems before disposal.”



Recycling program – Each hospitals should also have recycling programs for used items such as boxes, bottles and papers. Based on HCWH’s study, about 85% of the total hospital wastes are like regular household wastes that maybe recycled. Composting area on the other hand may be provided for food wastes from the kitchen. The compost may be used for plants around the hospitals or may even be sold. Recycling and composting programs can generate income for the hospitals.



In-house food production – Hospitals should consider serving food which are locally produced in the community than food from big establishments that are often laden with pesticides. These are healthier for patients and hospital workers alike. It saves cost in transporting food as well as supports livelihood of local farmers.



Mercury-free – Our hospitals should also be mercury-free. In 2008, the Department of Health (DoH) ordered the phase-out of mercury devices by September 2010. “With this Administrative Order, improved health services should now mean the use of mercury-free medical devices,” said Ferrer.



Efficient use of alternative materials which are non-toxic and environmentally friendly– “Such as using recycled papers or fabric instead of tarpaulin for event announcements in hospitals,” she added. A good example of alternative materials on the other hand is using tetrapacks as insulators instead of the regular expensive insulators. “This allows hospitals to re-use materials that would otherwise be discarded.”



Renewable and alternative energy – The group likewise is pushing for use of renewable and alternative energy generation such as solar or wind energy. This can be used for lighting, generation or pumping of water to the facilities. It is likewise wise for health care facilities to do small measures towards less and efficient use of energy by using compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or better yet Light Emitting Diodes (LED) as CFLs are mercury-containing and may be a cause of mercury pollution when not properly handled. Turning down the air conditioner during cooler days, turning off and unplugging equipments when not in use are other measures that will go a long way in saving energy usage in the hospitals. Having bigger windows so light and wind may freely enter must also be considered, as well as having plants within and outside of the hospital premises.



“These are measures that are easy to implement, all it needs is a commitment and the will to do things properly,” said Ferrer. “We hope that PRIMER will be incorporated in the improvements that the health sector wants to provide to the people.”

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