La Nacion, Argentina, November 4, 2013 — An underlying problem in hospital environments is the presence of a variety of toxic agents, exposure to which can cause illnesses both immediate and long-term. For some time, this dangerous issue has concerned professionals from our country and abroad as they search for a solution to this threat to both patients and staff. In response, the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network was created.  In Latin America, more than 150 healthcare organizations are active members.

Health Care Without Harm, the NGO that created the network, has challenged hospital entities to focus on a certain list of “Agenda goals”. These include treatment of waste, the replacement of disinfectants that present a risk to personnel, greater energy efficiency, reduction in water use whenpossible, contribution to the design of better transportation strategies, greater quality and abundance of healthy foods, and promotion of sustainably produced vegetables for patients. Examples of two developmental advances are the replacement of harmful materials used in the manufacture of oxygen masks, namely silicone and polyethylene, and the switch from traditional x-ray plaques to digital images printed on paper.

The regional coordinator of Health Care Without Harm for Latin America, Verónica Odriozola, pointed out that there are undoubtedly environmental factors that affect health, by both aggravating and creating problems. People are beginning to understand the need for the sector that attends to these dangers to be part of critical conversations about the environment. The intention is to eliminate substances toxic to workers and patients, according to Dr. Eduardo Fernández Rostello, director of Rivadavia Hospital. Rivadavia Hospital was a pioneer of Global Green and Healthy Hospitals in the country, and wasfollowed by others in the city of Buenos Aires, such as the Italian Hospital, Fernández Hospital and Roque Sáenz Peña Hospital in Rosario. To become a member of Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, a hospital is initially obligated to work towards the success of at least two of the “Agenda goals”, and must commit to work towards eventually completing every action. The influence of these practices has already reached the city of Buenos Aires and the country’s Ministry of Health, which have started to replace mercury thermometers with digital ones.

According to professionals, the greatest difficulty does not lie in the implementation of the changes mentioned, but rather the implicated cultural change, including abandoning old, entrenched practices. One hopes,therefore, that public institutions will support the Global Network’s laudable activities.