In Practice

Tackling the climate targets set by the Paris Agreement (COP 21): Green leadership empowers public hospitals to overcome obstacles and challenges in a resource-constrained environment

E Weimann, B Patel


The healthcare sector itself contributes to climate change, the creation of hazardous waste, use of toxic metals such as mercury, and water and air pollution. To mitigate the effect of healthcare provision on the deteriorating environment and avoid creating further challenges for already burdened health systems, Global Green Hospitals was formed as a global network. Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH), as the leading academic hospital in Africa, joined the network in 2014. Since then, several projects have been initiated to reduce the amount of general waste, energy consumption and food waste, and create an environmentally friendlier and more sustainable hospital in a resource-constrained public healthcare setting. We outline the various efforts made to reduce the carbon footprint of GSH and reduce waste and hazardous substances such as mercury and polystyrene, and elaborate how obstacles and resistance to change were overcome. The hospital was able to halve the amount of coal and water used, increase recycling by 50% over 6 months, replace polystyrene cups and packaging with Forest Stewardship Council recyclable paper-based products, reduce the effect of food wastage by making use of local farmers, and implement measures to reduce the amount of expired pharmaceutical drugs. To improve commitment from all involved roleplayers, political leadership, supportive government policies and financial funding is mandatory, or public hospitals will be unable to tackle the exponentially increasing costs related to climate change and its effects on healthcare.

Authors' affiliations

E Weimann, Groote Schuur Academic Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa; Department of Information Systems, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, South Africa

B Patel, Groote Schuur Academic Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

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Healthcare sector; Climate change; Hazardous waste; Paris Agreement; CPO 21

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2017;107(1):34-38. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i1.12023

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-12-21
Date published: 2016-12-21

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