Why hospitals are making us sick

I had the pleasure of seeing Robin Guenther, author of Sustainable Healthcare Architecture, speak at Clean Med 2015.

Here is an earlier version of her excellent keynote at TEDMED 2014.

It’s eye opening to listen to Robin’s thoughts on how the US has created a “sick care system” that has been caught in an industrial paradigm for the last 70 years:

“The Texas Medical Center is the largest in the world… With 106,000 employees at 54 institutions, co-located on 1.5 square miles. This is a 20th century industrial system. Like agriculture, chemicals, or fossil fuel energy. And like those systems it creates waste, some dismal work environments, and a load of externalized impacts. The inconvenient truth for all of us, is that it [healthcare] contributes to the problem it is there to solve.”

Robin talks about the environmental and health impacts:

“Healthcare is energy intensive…While we seek to perfect our antiseptic care environments, we dump pharmaceuticals in our water, disposable products in our landfills and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These all contribute to environmental degradation. And they are all preventable.”

She focuses on changing mindsets to build hospitals that make us healthy:

“The US healthcare system is beginning to wake up. To connect healing the earth and healing people. To accepting and acting on the core notion that you can’t have healthy people on a sick planet.”

“So how do we transform this 20th century model? And move from a system that delivers health care, to one that creates actual health.

“Restorative design is about moving from so-called solutions that degrade health and the environment to true solutions that do no harm and heal some of the harm we have already done. It’s about finding solutions that stop making us sick.”

“Right now the environmental and health costs of our healthcare system are not transparent.”

“Whether you are outside or inside of a restorative hospital, it is always healing.

“It is not money that stops us, it is mindset. The reason we don’t do these things…it’s because sometimes it’s difficult to see the harm, and, sometimes, it’s more comfortable to design the way we always have.”

So much of what she says resonates with the environmental footprint of health care in Canada, and around the world. Of all buildings that have environmental and health costs, it is ironic that this is the very place we go to when we are sick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *