Speech van minister Bruins bij de conferentie CleanMed Europe
Toespraak van minister Bruins (Medische Zorg enSport) bij de conferentie CleanMed Europe 2018, Nijmegen, op 10 oktober 2018. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last July the UN’s top climate change official Patricia Espinoza said: ‘What we need is an ark of ambition to tackle climate change.’
Looking at the devastating tsunami that hit Sulawesi last week, I’m certain she was right. In striving for a more sustainable world, no mountain should be too high for us. And it’s what unites us all today – here in Nijmegen, the green capital of Europe.
Today is extra special because it’s also National Sustainability Day. My whole country’s painted green.
It ties in with the Dutch government’s green ambitions. Inspired by the Paris Climate Agreement, we want to halve our country’s carbon emissions by 2030.
As Minister for Medical Care and Sport, this goal carries extra weight for me. Because pollution is a major cause of disease, premature birth and early mortality worldwide.
People in healthcare work hard to make people better. But the sector is also a major polluter. This contradiction is something that we can – and must – solve.
To reinforce this ambition, I’ve put on my most sustainable suit today. The fabric was produced by Khaloom, a startup in India. Using recycled textile waste from the Rotterdam-based company Upset. The suit was designed by Suit Supply in Amsterdam.
My outfit shows that a healthy mix of environmental awareness, innovation and international cooperation can create something extra special. And that a sustainable approach can have real impact.
This brings me back to you – doctors and nurses, civil servants and pharmacists, administrators and sustainability coordinators. Everyone here is both a pioneer and a driving force in their organisation. You’ve come here today to share knowledge and ideas. And get a boost of green energy.
I’m glad to be a part of this movement. And I want to tell you how the Dutch government helps make healthcare in the Netherlands greener.
First I want to go back in time, before setting out our plans for the future. Environmental awareness is like throwing a stone in a pond. The impact causes ripples that fan out across the entire pond.
In the same way, awareness has spread of the need for a greener healthcare system. In the Netherlands, it all started with a small, pioneering group of care institutions. Some 5 years ago they joined forces to strive for environmentally sustainable practices in healthcare.
First they found regional allies for their initiatives. Then they created a ripple effect across the country.
My predecessor sat down with Dutch care institutions, energy companies and local authorities, and set sustainability goals and binding agreements. Aimed at raising awareness and improving regional links.
They agreed that every care institution would make a baseline sustainability measurement in order to draw up a plan of action. They could also gain a sustainability hallmark.
Since then, our hospitals and care institutions have made great strides. Awareness of the need for change is spreading across the sector.
Creative ideas have already resulted in outstanding practical innovations. In partnership with Philips and Siemens – global frontrunners in sustainability – several hospitals are using refurbished medical equipment. And MRI scanners have become more energy-efficient.
That’s good news for the planet. And for the budget. Speaking as a minister, that’s a positive side effect.
Radboud University Medical Center tackled a problem of a different sort. Young patients getting chemotherapy weren’t eating their meals. They thought the food was disgusting. So most of it was thrown away.
The hospital worked with patients to develop a new nutritional concept. It’s called Food For Care, and stands for a major change in the hospitals’ nutrition policy.
The focus is on patients’ wishes and needs. There are different menus for different medical conditions. And patients can choose up to 6x small meals a day. So there’s much less food waste.
The programme saves costs, and also contributes to patients’ recovery. A more than positive side effect, in my opinion.
It isn’t only hospitals that are working on sustainable healthcare. Other early adopters, like disabled care, are also promoting innovative solutions for waste recycling, smart energy use and sustainable HR policy. Everyone agrees that more sustainable healthcare is better for everyone.
There are other initiatives too. Like our agreement on the organisation and funding of sports. This last agreement opens the door to partnerships between local care institutions and sports clubs. The aim is to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. For example: lowering the energy bill, will help sports clubs to keep a healthy balance ánd reduces their ecological footprint.
A lot has been set in motion at national level. There are lots of opportunities out there. Now it’s time for the next step.
Everyone who’s involved in sustainable healthcare knows: we’re not there yet. Not by a long shot.
Too often, sustainability depends on the individual efforts of enthusiastic project managers. It hasn’t been embedded in the entire organisation, or taken up by senior management. And they’re the ones who decide on priorities and funding.
There’s also a danger of fragmentation. Sustainability is a broad concept. You can interpret it in so many ways. It leads to a lot of creative ideas. But it’s also important to make choices.
You can’t do everything. You have to commit. The ‘ark of ambition’ calls for a focused, sector-wide strategy. And for much broader cooperation.
So I’ve joined forces with sector organisations, companies, other government ministries and local authorities, insurers, financial institutions and sector ambassadors.
We’ve negotiated a Green Deal 2.0. And we’ll be putting our signatures to that agreement in just a minute.
The new Green Deal sets goals in 4 areas: lower carbon emissions, circular business operations, pharmaceutical residues in waste water, and healthy communities.
Care institutions will take the lead in making healthcare greener. The other parties will actively support their efforts.
I know how effective a strategy of broad cooperation can be.
I’d like to tell you about the nephrology unit at Utrecht University Medical Centre. The doctors there are working to making kidney dialysis greener. Dialysis uses 120 litres of water per patient. All this water needs to be heated to body temperature.
It also produces a lot of waste that goes straight into the water. And patients need to come to the hospital for dialysis several times a week.
The doctors in Utrecht decided that this needed to change. They systematically reviewed the entire care pathway to see where improvements could be made.
Could they use less water for rinsing? Could homecare nurses and GPs help patients receive dialysis at home? In the evening or at night? Where was the equipment manufactured? Under what conditions?
How was the medicine packaged and shipped? How could they prevent harmful substances being drained along with waste water?
These questions gave insight and resulted in a new care pathway. With less pollution, lower costs, and more comfort for patients.
But this way of working also demands cooperation with a wide range of partners. Like the Dutch College of GPs – about the role of GPs in this care pathway. And with suppliers of dialysis machines and medication.
The UMC consultants also decided to ask their European colleagues to work with them on this issue. Agreements have now been made with 4 international companies about sustainable machines and packaging.
This project contributes to more sustainable healthcare. And it’s good for the hospital’s image, as a state-of-the-art facility.
As Minister for Medical Care I want to help generate energy for making healthcare more sustainable. So this finally brings me back to you.
I’ve told you about where we’ve come from in the Netherlands. About the course we’ve set for the future. And how I, as a member of government, support and stimulate this development.
But this movement is bigger than the Netherlands. For example: 18 institutions from different countries have joined forces in the international Health Care Withouth Harm-project. When it’s been fully implemented, they will collectively serve over 23 million patients per year at facilities that use 3.3 billion kilowatt hours of renewable electricity. In the end this deal will reduce the aggregate annual carbon emissions of these institutions by more than 1 million metric tonnes.
It’s obvious we need to work together to increase our impact. To build the ark of ambition that’s needed to tackle climate change. And to make sure that we all benefit from sustainable healthcare.
I wish you a constructive and sustainable conference.