Healthcare is at a critical juncture. There are limited resources, growing demands and increased damage done to our environment in delivering care. Covid-19 has revealed the vulnerability of our healthcare supply chain and worsened environmental waste and costs. The lessons learnt include a demand that we abandon our “disposable” healthcare culture and move to a more resilient, sustainable, circular cost-savings model.

As the president of the global trade association that advocates for the safe reprocessing of so-called “single-use” medical devices, I know how wasteful our healthcare system has become, but also am intimately aware of immediate solutions. Unfortunately, the Sunday Times Daily article, “Sahpra (South African Health Products Regulatory Authority) vs medical company: would you want a used catheter in your heart?” included misinformation about current regulation, lacked relevant context and overlooked data that would have greatly informed readers. We write to provide this information.

Greenhouse gas emissions from hospitals make our planet and people sick

Our “take-make-waste” approach to healthcare is costly and environmentally unsustainable. The health sector generates 4.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions according to Healthcare Without Harm, a global non-profit organisation dedicated to helping the health sector reduce environmental impact. A growing body of evidence shows the health sector creates more than twice the amount of greenhouse gasses than the entire aviation industry. Researchers estimate that wasteful hospital supply chains and reliance on disposable medical products contribute significantly to the problem. The incineration of disposable medical products adversely impacts human health, resulting in thousands of years of life lost annually, according to published data by Prof Andrea MacNeill from the University of British Columbia. . .

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