Sustainability - Environmental impact

Life Healthcare acknowledges its responsibility in actively reducing its environmental risks and impacts not only to protect natural resources for future generations, but because it is essential for the planet, good for employees and the public.

Environmental management system

Life Healthcare is embarking on the implementation of an environmental management system, necessary from a legal and external reporting perspective as well as an economic and environmental perspective.

Life Healthcare has been classified as a low impact organisation in environmental terms. However, we bear responsibility for the environmental, health and safety consequences of our medical services. Our environmental obligations are managed through regular safety, health, environmental and quality audits.

We endorse the need to manage the consumption of our natural resources in a sustainable manner, to conserve energy and water, and to recycle in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint in line with international best practice.

Sustainability projects

Aside from our broader environmental management strategy, Life Healthcare is embarking upon a number of sustainability projects over the short term, focusing on managing and reducing the Group's energy consumption, reducing carbon emissions, reducing water consumption and recovering waste water. These projects include the following:

Reducing energy consumption

Life Healthcare aims to reduce its energy consumption. Current utilisation is approximately 168 328 736 kW hr per annum. The majority of the utilisation comes from heating, ventilation and airconditioning at 40%, followed by water heating at 30%, lighting at 20% and other uses at 10%.

Life Healthcare has the ability to report on energy consumption across the Group. This has resulted in the creation of benchmarks and the development and implementation of conservation initiatives. Fifteen Life Healthcare hospitals will be incorporated into Phase I of the energy reduction project, with initiatives such as energy efficient lighting systems and occupancy sensors being implemented and behaviour change around degree settings of air-conditioners in our operating theatres being encouraged.

Reducing carbon emissions

Use of R22 refrigerant gas, which has been outlawed by the Montreal Protocol, will be phased out in Life Healthcare and replaced with a more appropriate gas (ie R134a) which will reduce our CO2 emissions considerably. The same 15 hospitals as above will participate in Phase I of this sustainability project.

Reducing water consumption and recovering waste water

Life Healthcare consumes 1.56 billion litres of water per annum. Of this our autoclaves consume 125 million litres. Autoclave water will in future be recycled – not only will this reduce water usage across the Group, but the energy to heat the water can be recovered in heat exchangers.

Healthcare waste management

The Waste Act was enacted to protect health and the environment by providing reasonable measures for the prevention of pollution and ecological degradation. Facilities that generate medical waste may store such waste for short periods of time. Life Healthcare is sensitive to the potential impact that waste generated through our hospitals' activities could pose to the environment and to public health if not correctly handled, disposed of or destroyed. Waste includes infectious waste, drug waste resulting from cancer treatments, waste from the usage of X-rays, cleaning concentrates, diesel fuel or motor oil which represent a danger to the soil or groundwater, and chemicals such as those used in anaesthetics.

The healthcare waste industry in South Africa has a history of illegal dumping and insufficient incinerators, and contingency plans in the industry are not always effective due to lack of permitted and legally compliant treatment facilities. Following a report of illegal dumping in Welkom and, in order to ensure legal compliance by service providers in the disposal or destruction of waste, as well as tracking and tracing thereof, the Group contracted with a team of legal environmentalists to confirm by audit, that the Group was dealing with compliant service providers. Results indicated that the latest waste management tender process had resulted in a sensible granting of the tender based on limited choices of service providers within the South African setting.

A longer term solution that the Group is considering is to review the option whereby Life Healthcare assists in the capacity building in the industry. Life Healthcare is committed to reducing the amount of waste generated. All facilities have recycling initiatives and training is provided to enable staff to reduce the amount of waste through correct segregation.