Navigating Net Zero – an overview of the Geneva Sustainability Study Tour for Polish Hospital Executives

Date:  23 May 2023

Navigating Net Zero – an overview of the Geneva Sustainability Study Tour for Polish Hospital Executives

On  1–2 May 2023, the IHF’s Geneva Sustainability Centre was pleased to welcome the Polish Hospital Federation (PFSz) for a 2-day study tour on sustainability. Here’s a round-up of highlights from the event and how joining a masterclass or tour with the Centre supports hospital leaders to become climate leaders. 

Understanding the urgent need to act for health and climate

Climate change is the single greatest threat to human health, as stated by the World Health Organization and other scientific institutions. Understanding how we contribute to it through our use of resources and the production of carbon emissions is key to reducing its adverse effects. Thankfully there is evidence available on low-carbon initiatives and the steps required by hospital leaders to ensure healthcare delivery becomes resilient, sustainable, and has a low carbon footprint.  

“Hospitals need to become climate resilient by reducing the risk through addressing vulnerability, exposure, and hazard. This is not only a problem of the global South where more frequently long-lived hurricanes occur such as Freddy in Madagascar, but also in Europe where four hospitals were destroyed during the German flood (Arh valley) in June 2021.”

shared Edda Weimman, Director of Learning Programmes for the Geneva Sustainability Centre.   

In a presentation by the World Health Organization’s Techné Coordinator, Michele Di Marco, the importance of preparedness for adverse events by improving the resilience of healthcare facilities. He characterized it as an important mitigating strategy to overcoming the consequences of climate change which has already been felt by many due to the increased frequency in natural hazards.  

Di Marco added:

“Health system resilience has been previously defined as the capacity of health actors, institutions, and populations to prepare for and effectively respond to crises, maintain core functions when a crisis hits, and, informed by lessons learned during the crisis, reorganize if conditions require it. Healthcare facilities play a direct and invaluable role in supporting countries’ ability to respond quickly and efficiently to infectious disease outbreaks. They also play critical roles in mitigating the health impacts of other public health emergencies following natural hazards and man-made catastrophes.”. 

Simulated decision-making

The study tour’s masterclass was designed by the Centre’s learning team sustainability and health experts, prof. Dr Edda Weimann and Dr Aoife Kirk– and includes an introduction to the Carbon Emissions Learning Lab (CELL), a simulation game designed by the Geneva Sustainability Centre. It challenges participants to reduce the carbon emissions of a fictional hospital by 40% while maintaining the quality of care, patient satisfaction, staff wellbeing, and their hospital’s reputation. Participants are given the possibility to choose three strategies per year during a multi-year challenge, and the game is powered by real-world data for an authentic and credible learning experience.  

The Polish delegates were some of the first to try the CELL learning experience, and this group of hospital CEOs expressed their ease with the process and decision-making, and noted that this is similar to the decision they are required to make in their hospitals. One CEO from the Polish Hospital Federation remarked:

“This was a very interesting activity to participate in. As someone with not much knowledge about sustainability efforts in healthcare, I think this was a good starting point to explore the topic.”

The value of powering CELL with real-world data is that it highlights key initiatives which can result in as much as a 16% reduction in carbon emissions in year 1, as well as include additional benefits such as optimized use of resources and decreased costs. By working in teams to decide on each year’s priority actions, leaders can exchange ideas and experience to develop expertise in sustainable and resilient healthcare delivery in their own communities.

Sharing experiences and best practices

Through the masterclass programme, participants had the opportunity to communicate on best practices for sustainability in the context of their hospitals. Geneva University Hospital’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Sophie Meisser, explained that implementing effective change for improved sustainability and resilience requires talking to people, understanding their challenges, and providing them with the information they require to assure them they can successfully achieve their objectives and also optimize their use of resources. An example of best practices was shared relating to reducing the use of detergent to wash floors, which in turn did not result in any adverse effects. The initiative was implemented following a case study from French University Hospitals, further highlighting the importance for hospital leaders to learn from each other for better health outcomes. Ms Meisser explained:

“By understanding the parameters in which our colleagues perform their work we can support them and work in partnership”

At the Geneva University Hospital, its Chief Sustainability Officer, Sophie Meisser and CEO, Bertrand Levrat, welcomed the tour participants to lunch at a restaurant within the hospital complex, located in the heart of the city. It welcomes Geneva residents, staff and patients alike. The menu is designed with sustainability in mind and is produced with locally sourced ingredients, providing a grading on the level of carbon emissions associated with each dish. 

Concrete change

As part of the study tour, CEOs from the Polish Hospital Federation were asked to reflect and devise initiatives to improve the sustainability practices of their hospitals. They had the opportunity to present in front of a panel of sustainability experts and to discuss the opportunities and challenges of their chosen programmes. 

In addition, the Geneva Sustainability Centre presented the GSC Sustainability Accelerator Tool (SAT) which will be launched later in 2023. The GSC SAT is a digital platform that allows healthcare organizations to find out their ‘maturity level’ on their sustainability journey and to benchmark their performance through a set of KPIs to support hospital leaders to address internationally-relevant sustainability challenges. 

The different components of the study tour combine to provide a well-rounded and action-oriented programme to support hospital leaders to become climate leaders. To find out more about the Geneva Sustainability Centre study tours, contact Sylvia Basterecchea, Programme Lead, to discuss the needs of your hospital and how we can support you on your climate leadership journey. 

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