By Luqman Yesufu, GGHH Coordinator in South Africa, groundWork

Recruiting health institutions in Africa into the Global Green and Healthy Hospital (GGHH) network is one thing, but actually organizing a regional event for the GGHH network that will have a global outreach is a challenging task, to put it mildly. I actually had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was confident that I would see this through because I had the groundWork and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) team behind me.

I was also motivated by the fact that this was a huge opportunity for the GGHH members in South Africa to showcase their achievements to the world. I wanted to facilitate a unique and rare event, where Africans were leading the discussion on sustainability in healthcare and creating an important space for knowledge sharing. The opportunity to do this presented itself in the 40th World Hospital Congress, under the International Hospital Federation, a platform where hospitals and other health institutions from around the globe planned to gather.

The International Hospital Federation’s (IHF) 40th World Hospital Congress (WHC) took place at Durban’s International Convention Centre from the 31st of October to the 3rd of November. This was the first time this event would be taking place on the African continent.  The participants were reflective of the IHF’s membership, a globally representative group which included members from around the world. The aim was to bring together key drivers of national and international policy, management, financial trends and solutions in healthcare management and service delivery. This year’s IHF forum played a crucial role in encouraging multidisciplinary exchange of knowledge, expertise and experiences, facilitated through dialogue. Attendees shared ideas on best practices in leadership and healthcare management and delivery of services. The IHF members gathered on the congress theme; “Addressing the Challenge of Patient-centered Care and Safety”. This theme was within the scope of the overall GGHH objective of encouraging best practices, promoting environmental health and reducing the environmental footprint of the health sector, all in a bid to ensure patient care and safety. With such great links between GGHH goals and the congress theme, we had to take full advantage of the opportunity to host a GGHH side event alongside the WHC.

The side event “Global Green and Healthy Health Systems” brought together hospital leaders from Africa that have voluntarily joined the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network (GGHH) as well as other leading international health care experts to share approaches to low-carbon, sustainable health care ideas and systems. The aim was to spread the word about what our hospitals were doing, consolidate our efforts in the region, as well as recruit more members into the GGHH network. The turnout was amazing, over 100 IHF delegates registered for our GGHH side event. These delegates included all the chief executive officers of 30 hospitals in the KwaZulu-Natal province, 26 from the Western Cape and 30 spread across the remaining seven provinces in the country. Other delegates included representatives from parliament, Netcare Hospital Limited, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), New York University and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The side event structuring allowed and encouraged the active participation of the audience. We had two panel discussions, made up of GGHH member hospitals. Each discussion focused on thematic areas that reflected the goals that the sustainability champions had adopted. The themes were spread across leadership, waste, water pharmaceuticals and energy. These were seen as problematic areas in the hospitals and were addressed by the sustainability coordinators who presented their findings and accomplishments. It was inspiring to listen to coordinators share their experiences and the reasons why they, despite all the challenges, embarked upon this sustainability journey. Shireen Arends who is a quality assurance manager by profession and the sustainability coordinator for Greys Hospital said;

“After our GGHH baseline assessment, it was interesting to note those areas we as a hospital were negligent in, mainly our waste management practices. Our actions were harming the very people that we swore an oath not to harm. This was an eye opener for me as a quality assurance manager and the reason for us to join the GGHH Network.”

For Denton Smith who is the Head of Engineering at Groote Schuur Hospital and also the GGHH Coordinator at the hospital;

“It’s all about savings, the more savings we make on infrastructure the more we have to divert to patient care and staff safety. Since we joined GGHH and initiated the changes to the infrastructure of the boiler house and the steam lines we have managed to effect a saving in the hospital coal consumption of 48% from 2009 to 2015. This has reduced our environmental footprint remarkably.”

The fact that these were real life experiences from hospital representatives made it worthwhile for the audience to engage with them and see through their lens.

Furthermore, as part of the set of activities organised for the IHF delegates was the hospital visit. This was also an opportunity for the chosen hospital to share their best practices with the world. Our GGHH hospital – Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALCH) was picked for the hospital tour. This is an 846 bed hospital, serving the needs of 3.7 million people. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr T Khanyile, who also spoke earlier in the week at the GGHH side event, gave the welcome remarks and spoke about being chosen by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health to be a pilot GGHH hospital. She emphasised that there were two important reasons for her motivation to join this initiative:

The immediate cost savings associated with sustainability initiatives and the responsibility as a care giver to act due to the impacts of global warming on health.”

The hospital’s presentation featured their case study of good environmental health practices to save energy and water and reduce the amount of chemicals used in cleaning.  They also had posters illustrating and reinforcing these good practices which were visible throughout the hospital. They even had a slogan at the entrance of the hospital: Inkosi Albert Luthuli central Hospital (IALCH) has gone green, have you?

GGHH activities and posters were highlighted throughout the hospital during the tour attended by delegates from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. These posters emphasised sustainability initiatives like saving water and energy through switching off taps and lights.

Overall the visit to IALCH was a fantastic way to end a successful week of GGHH involvement in the 40th World Hospital Congress (WHC). Both the side event and the tour inspired and motivated GGHH members and led to a large number of new recruits who are passionate about creating sustainable futures. Members left feeling energized and recommitted to their oath to first do no harm.


For more information and photos on the event, click here.


Susan Wilburn, Susan Wilburn, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals' Sustainability Director, describes the distribution of GGHH members in 40 countries around the world. Source: groundWork, describes the distribution of GGHH members in 40 countries around the world. Source: groundWork

Susan Wilburn, Susan Wilburn, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals’ Sustainability Director, describes the distribution of GGHH members in 40 countries around the world. Source: groundWork, describes the distribution of GGHH members in 40 countries around the world. Source: groundWork

Stephan Reichert, Deputy Director of Engineering and Support Services, Western Cape Department of Health, receiving the 2020 Challenge Award. Source: grounWork.

Stephan Reichert, Deputy Director of Engineering and Support Services, Western Cape Department of Health, receiving the 2020 Challenge Award. Source: grounWork.