Climate change threatens health services, says report

Climate change threatens health services, says report

Flames erupt from an open gas valve at the Trip’s End mobile home park, with Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center in the background, in Santa Rosa, Calif. Five years ago, the Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center fire destroyed homes and buildings across Northern California. The smoke-filled hospital was closed for 17 days. Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot, file

Dr. Susie Fitzgerald remembers looking out the windows of the hospital where she worked as wildfires engulfed her.

“We had fire on all three sides,” Fitzgerald recalled. I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is tough. We have to get these people out.”

Fitzgerald helped evacuate 122 patients from Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa Medical Center on a night five years ago as it destroyed homes and buildings across Northern California. The smoke-filled hospital was closed for 17 days.

There are fires, floods, heat waves and more at medical centers around the country. They are jeopardizing medical care, damaging health care facilities and forcing patients to flee hospital beds. The House Ways and Means Committee for the report issued on Thursday.

In a hearing, Dr. Parinda Khatri, CEO of Cherokee Health Systems, told the committee that a pediatric clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee, was forced to close for 10 days this summer after the air conditioning system broke down.

Wildfires near facilities in Oregon have forced evacuations in 2020, Providence Health’s Elizabeth Schneck told the committee.

Of the 63 hospital systems and community health centers that responded to the committee’s questionnaire, most say they have experienced at least one weather event in the past five years.

The health centers reported extensive economic impacts related to weather conditions, with emergencies costing between $28,000 and $22 million to cover building damage, closures, displacement, staff overtime or delayed election processes.

The organizations are not necessarily representative of hospital systems nationwide and may represent both “larger health systems with more resources and limited support to implement high-cost interventions and smaller community-based providers,” the report said.

The report indicated that. Additional facilities, personnel and plans are being prepared for emergency weather-related events.

Fitzgerald officials at the Kaiser Permanente Institute in 2015 After the 2017 wildfire evacuation, they took a closer look at the plans and developed new policies, including a new information log for staff to provide patients with detailed information on their condition and needs at the time of evacuation.

“It made for a much more orderly response,” Fitzgerald said.

Paul Biddinger, Mass. Gen. Brigham’s chief readiness and sustainability officer In New England, they said they were hiring. After watching hurricanes and floods destroy hospitals in New Orleans, New York City, and Kentucky over the past two decades, the engineers came to examine 30 of the buildings.

“Our health care system is clearly vulnerable,” Bidder said. “But many people, including leaders of health care organizations themselves, often do not appreciate the level of vulnerability.”

Most of the institutions included in the report indicated that they have assembled working groups or have staff dedicated to climate change issues.

New York’s Northwell Health, the state’s largest health care provider, has an emergency command room where employees can watch the news on televisions. The two screens always return to the weather.

From ambulance routes to high winds and snow to power-threatening flooding, the health care system has had to deal with more than 20 weather events in the past five years, said Donna Drummond, Northwell’s chief cost and sustainability director. Officer.

Extreme weather is considered when Northwell builds a new facility or hospital, she said.

“Climate change is here, it’s happening, it’s affecting us,” Drummond said. “We have to be strong. Our institutions have to be able to withstand hurricanes and be prepared for these events.”

The health care system itself is a driver of climate change, accounting for approximately 10% President Joe Biden, who is released every year in the United States, has set a goal to cut US greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to release guidelines for health care centers to track and report those emissions.

“It’s more obviously climate-related. And rising emissions continue to worsen health care outcomes, and the time for action is now,” he said.

About half of the institutions responding to the committee said they were tracking their carbon footprint or using programs. .

But many health care organizations are not doing enough to reduce pollution, Jody Sherman, an associate professor at Yale School of Medicine, told the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Voluntary measures are not enough to change care sector,” Sherman said.

The poor should not bear the responsibility to reduce health care carbon emissions

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