21/03/2021

Taranaki Health Foundation partnership boosts hospital sustainability effort

Published in Live! Magazine by Rochelle West

When the $300 million new East Wing building at Taranaki Base Hospital is completed in 2023, the region will boast the first 5-star ‘Greenstar’ certified public hospital in the country. 

It will be more than the building that will be sustainable, however. For the first time, sustainability is being championed throughout the organisation from policy, to processes and people – thanks to a long-standing partnership.

Hospitals are among the largest users of water, energy, and generators of waste in the regions they operate, and Taranaki Base Hospital is no exception – until now.

In a country where businesses and individuals are reducing, reusing and recycling like never before, it seems inconceivable that until recently the Taranaki District Health Board didn’t recycle or have plans for its general waste, or energy use. It didn’t have any formalised sustainability policy or strategy, let alone a dedicated sustainability lead to drive improvements and capture data on the hospital’s impact on the world around it. Understandably, a publicly-funded hospital’s primary role is the healthcare of the region’s residents and Government funding reflects that. While the new hospital building, to house the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, Laboratory, Radiology and Maternity services, is being designed to be environmentally sustainable, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs, there isn’t the budget for designing and implementing the likes of sustainability policies or processes. Adrian Sole, chairperson of the Taranaki Health Foundation, which fundraises on behalf of the community to deliver services and new technology over and above Government funding provided to the Taranaki DHB, says there was a glaring need.

“Locally, we previously could only makean educated guess at consumption, use and impact of the Taranaki DHB on the environment as there had not been an in-depth audit undertaken until recently. In the early stages of planning and discovery, we understood we would literally be starting at ground zero as there was nothing formal taking place at the hospital to promote sustainability. We are inspired by the fact that there is significant opportunity to build not only a sustainable hospital that will provide healthier environments, saving money on energy and water costs, but will also boost employee satisfaction and productivity, reduce staff turnover and improve recovery times for patients,” Adrian says.

Keen to continue its long partnership with the Taranaki Health Foundation, New Plymouth’s Corteva Agriscience is investing in the Sustainability 20/21 Project – a programme to encourage sustainability/Pūmoutanga in healthcare at the Taranaki DHB. Encompassing three focus areas – policy, practice and people – the goal is to accelerate sustainable practice within the Taranaki DHB as it develops and builds the country’s first 5-star, Greenstar rated public hospital.

"The Sustainability 20/21 Project is well aligned with Corteva's sustainability goals, so it's a very good fit for us," Corteva Agriscience supply chain leader, New Zealand-Australia, Andrew Syme, says.

The Taranaki Health Foundation does great work with projects that have a wide benefit in the community, where our employees and their families live and work, and is aligned with Corteva’s purpose and values around enriching lives,” Andrew says.

While sustainability is about reducing waste and emissions, it’s also about people, Andrew says.

“It’s engaging with and empowering communities to create their own sustainability activities, and to create a better future for generations to come. This is where this connection works really well.”

A component of the partnership between Corteva and the Taranaki Health Foundation is volunteering. 

“Corteva has launched a programme that provides our employees with paid leave to volunteer and support community initiatives the company is engaged with. We are looking forward to working with the Foundation to enable our employees to be involved with this sustainability initiative,” Andrew says.

And there are plenty of sustainable projects that Corteva’s employees could get involved with. On Taranaki Base Hospital campus’ western boundary lies an area of native bush. Predator trapping has already begun among the regenerating flora and fauna, says Taranaki DHB sustainability lead Maria Cashmore.

“One of the projects is to protect that bush, which is home to kereru, silver eye and tui. This special place is amazing. I’ve never seen a hospital which actually has native bush,” Maria says.

The development of a ‘healing garden’ on an unused piece of land on the hospital campus – an equity project co-designed with local Māori – is also in the pipeline. The garden would be built on sustainable practices, from composting food waste from the hospital, through to growing food. Adrian Sole says the partnership between Corteva and the Taranaki Health Foundation will go beyond helping the Taranaki DHB achieve its sustainability goals.

“We believe this plan will set the direction for change, identify best practice and engage champions to lead and role-model a new way of working and living this decade,” he says.