Government urged to make Canadian hospitals climate change-resistant: experts

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

“Devastating wildfires, extreme weather conditions, and the looming threat of climate change have highlighted the urgent need for Canada to prioritize disaster-proofing its hospitals. From the harrowing experience of the Fort McMurray evacuation in 2016 to the ongoing challenges faced by healthcare facilities across the country, the time to act is now.

The Fort McMurray Crisis: A Wake-Up Call

In 2016, a wall of flames descended upon Fort McMurray, leaving tens of thousands of residents fleeing for their lives. David Matear, the senior operating director for the health system in northern Alberta at the time, vividly remembers the chaos and destruction that ensued. The Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, a beacon of hope in the midst of the inferno, stood strong despite the surrounding devastation. However, the smoke and damage incurred during the crisis underscored the vulnerabilities of our healthcare infrastructure.

The Growing Threat of Climate-Related Disasters

With climate change exacerbating the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, Canadian hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed by a wave of emergencies. Ryan Ness, director of adaptation research at the Canadian Climate Institute, warns that hospitals must be fortified against fires, floods, heatwaves, and other extreme weather events. The recent closures of healthcare facilities due to environmental factors serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for action.

Preparing for the Future: A Call to Action

A report by Health Canada emphasizes the importance of integrating climate change adaptation measures into strategic planning for healthcare facilities. From relocating critical infrastructure to investing in resilient ventilation systems, hospitals must take proactive steps to ensure they can withstand the impacts of climate change. The example of the St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, designed to withstand rising sea levels and extreme temperatures, serves as a model for future-proofing healthcare facilities.

Looking Ahead: A Critical Imperative

As Matear aptly observes, the frequency of emergencies necessitates a shift towards proactive preparedness. The lessons learned from past crises, such as the Fort McMurray evacuation, highlight the need for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to disaster-proofing hospitals. Failure to act now could result in devastating consequences, both financially and in terms of human lives.

It is essential that Canada invests in the resilience of its healthcare infrastructure to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens. By prioritizing disaster-proofing measures and embracing transformative changes, we can build a healthcare system that is prepared to face the challenges of an uncertain future. The time to act is now.”



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