Excellent patient care meets environmental stewardship

By Anne-Marie Malek

As noted in The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change’s annual report (2019), Canada’s health care sector produces the third-highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world, with 900 kilograms per capita of C02. As President and CEO of West Park, I feel responsible to ensure our facility leads by example in fostering sustainable health care by not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but on several  factors that contribute to climate change. We have demonstrated our commitment for decades and as we build our new campus of care we are doing so with the environment in mind.

West Park is a proud founding member of Greening Health Care and has continued its active participation since 2004. The Centre’s leadership team compares its energy and water usage to similar facilities on an ongoing basis, and is committed to reaching for the top of the benchmark charts in environmental sustainability while constantly learning from and sharing with other hospitals.

This work has resulted in very positive outcomes and we take pride in having decreased electricity usage by 18.5 per cent between 2005 and 2018; reduced overall gas usage by 16.6 per cent between 2009 and 2018; and lowered our greenhouse gas emissions by 67 tonnes C02e between 2013 and 2018. The strong commitment at every level of leadership and the board of directors as well as a culture of environmental stewardship has resulted in these outcomes. With the engagement of staff in our Environmental Committee, we anticipate this trend will continue.

West Park is not only making sustainable strides on campus, but in the community as well. In an effort to help advance the dialogue on climate change and sustainable health systems, I am honored to be a member of the Stewardship Group for the recently established Centre for Sustainable Health Systems in the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.

For over a year, West Park has been preparing its grounds for the construction of a new rehabilitative hospital and the creation of a campus of care that will completely transform West Park Healthcare Centre.   The facility, originally opened as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in 1904, has traditionally looked and felt much more like a park than a hospital. This longstanding appreciation for the natural environment reflects our belief in the connection between nature and healing and provides a blueprint for the new campus.

West Park’s campus spans 27 acres in the Mount Dennis community of Toronto. As mentioned in David Nickle’s 2019 Toronto Star article, Planners envision an eco-friendly future for Toronto’s Mount Dennis Area, this is an area of the city that has a collective desire to lead eco-friendly development. As one of the area’s largest employers, we have always felt a responsibility to demonstrate environmental stewardship when planning our new campus development.

Alongside our goal of providing exemplary care, and in partnership with EllisDon, we aspire to the highest standards of energy and environmental performance. We plan to do this through the incorporation of heat recovery chillers, high efficiency lighting and controls, oversized air heating units, operable windows, and automated roller shades. We intend on following the ongoing performance of the top-performing P3 hospitals to incorporate lessons learned and continuously update and implement operational best practices from the outset and sustain that high level of commitment going forward.

The results we have achieved in the last several years as well as our commitment to continuous improvement helped earn West Park the 2018 Green Hospital of the Year Award (non-acute) from the Coalition for Green Health Care. The Coalition cited our 21.1 per cent year-over-year decrease in waste generation, 4.1 per cent year-over-year decrease in water usage and a third consecutive year of below average energy use intensity as contributing to our selection for the award. West Park was also recognized for its progress in all six policy and planning areas; environmentally preferable purchasing, toxins management, sustainable construction/renovation, energy, waste, and water.

It is our strong belief that while our health system’s primary focus should always be on working together to ensure the best health outcomes for our patients, we should also be dedicating time, resources, and leadership to reducing our carbon footprint. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, it is every organization’s responsibility to take a look at the impact that we are having on the environment and human health. For West Park’s part, we will continue to learn from other facilities implementing new and exciting technology, programs, and systems, while sharing the work we are doing to promote environmental sustainability.

Anne-Marie Malek is President and CEO, West Park Healthcare Centre.