Health and aged care already acting on climate change

Efforts to cut carbon pollution have been underway in health and aged care services for some years, with many Catholic hospitals and aged homes having in place energy, waste, and water reduction initiatives, and several innovative renewable energy programs. Catholic Health Australia (CHA) today commended the shared commitment of Australia's major political parties to acting on climate change by seeking reductions in greenhouse gases to levels 5% below those emitted in 2000.

CHA CEO Martin Laverty said "Hospitals and aged care homes are large users of energy. The average hospital bed in Australia has been assessed as emitting up to 28 tonnes of carbon per annum.

"Well before the current debate on how to address climate change, Catholic hospitals and aged care services had commenced efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Just two examples are:

• Solar panels installed on the 363-bed St John of God Hospital Murdoch, reducing carbon emissions by 230 tonnes per year. The hospital has also invested in intelligent chiller controls and modern air-conditioning systems, and in the last 12 months has reduced energy consumption by 4.7% and water consumption by 14%.

• Southern Cross Care Tasmania's use of geothermal energy where at one Hobart location a system draws heat from the city's treated sewage, and at another Hobart location the energy cost of an aged care home has been cut from $250,000 per annum to $60,000."

CHA commended Aged Care Minister Mark Butler's commitment that older Australians in aged care, and aged care providers, will not be out of pocket as a result of the introduction of the proposed carbon tax scheme.

"The Government proposes measures to compensate both older people living in aged care homes and those who operate aged care homes for cost increases that will result from the Carbon Tax. The Government has thought through the impact of the tax on older people," Mr Laverty said.

"For hospitals, it is less clear how the Government intends to avoid carbon tax costs disrupting services. According to Treasury estimates, electricity will increase by around 10% and gas by around 9%.

"CHA has commenced discussions with the Government on how public hospital funding will be adjusted to offset cost increases in response to the carbon tax, and if private hospitals will also be assisted in meeting the new costs.

"Sunday's announcement of the carbon tax did not address if public and private hospitals or their patients would need to meet the new carbon costs. We're keen to avoid public and private patients being impacted by any new costs, so we're keen to learn what the Government proposes," Mr Laverty said.

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