Climate change experts urge governments to disaster-proof Canada’s hospitals against disasters.

Governments must disaster-proof Canada's hospitals against climate change: experts

“In the quiet town of Fort McMurray, a raging inferno brought chaos and destruction, leaving behind memories of a harrowing medical evacuation that tested the resilience of the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre. As flames licked at the edges of the hospital, David Matear, the senior operating director at the time, witnessed the terrifying sight of a wall of fire surrounding the building.

The evacuation of the hospital marked the largest medical evacuation in Canadian history, with tens of thousands fleeing the encroaching wildfire. While everyone managed to escape unharmed, the aftermath left the hospital in need of extensive repairs. The incident served as a wake-up call for the need to disaster-proof essential infrastructure, especially in the face of climate change-induced emergencies.

Building Resilience Against Climate Challenges

As the director of adaptation research at the Canadian Climate Institute, Ryan Ness emphasizes the importance of fortifying hospitals against an increasing number of disasters. From wildfires and floods to heatwaves and extreme weather events, hospitals are vulnerable to the same emergencies that bring patients through their doors. With climate-related emergencies expected to escalate in the coming years, urgent action is needed to ensure the safety and functionality of critical healthcare facilities across the country.

Facing the Reality of Aging Infrastructure

The Canadian Medical Association’s warning about the aging infrastructure of healthcare facilities in Canada rings true, as many hospitals were built over 50 years ago, making them particularly susceptible to extreme climate events. Instances of hospital closures due to weather-related issues outside of Fort McMurray highlight the urgent need for proactive measures to protect and future-proof healthcare infrastructure.

Looking Ahead and Embracing Change

While the cost of implementing resilience measures may seem steep, the consequences of inaction could be far greater. Investing in disaster-proofing hospitals is not just about protecting buildings; it’s about safeguarding lives and ensuring access to critical healthcare services when they are needed most. By prioritizing transformative changes and proactive adaptation measures, Canada can pave the way for a more resilient healthcare system in the face of a changing climate.

The time for action is now. We must learn from past experiences, anticipate future challenges, and take decisive steps to strengthen our healthcare infrastructure against the unpredictable forces of nature. Let us not wait for disaster to strike before we act. Let us build a future where our hospitals stand strong in the face of adversity, ready to serve and protect the health and well-being of all Canadians.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press”



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