Sustainability is a global responsibility, said industry leaders during a panel discussion on the first day of Medlab Middle East 2023 on Monday.
“Policymakers and governments have to sit together and agree on legislation to make healthcare organisations less polluting to the environment, including the pathology industry. While the pathology industries in Europe, Canada, US, and the Middle East are doing well, the same cannot be said for some developing countries. We need legislation for sustainability, equipped with incentives, taxes, subsidies, green finance, etc. Healthcare systems and organisations should be supported in their green efforts and sustainability practices,” said Dr. Rana Nabulsi, Head of Operations and Quality, Pathology and Genetics, Dubai Academic Health Corporation.
The comments were part of the panel discussion: Holistic approaches to reducing the environmental impact of clinical laboratories.
Laboratories, in general, are resource-intensive spaces and use up to 10 times the energy and four times the water of a typical commercial office building. The industry also significantly contributes to plastic pollution.
Green policy initiatives in the healthcare sector, in general, and laboratory space, in particular, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have a positive impact on climate change.
“Sustainability is an ecosystem with various stakeholders such as patients, regulatory agencies, legislators, insurance companies and policymakers, C-suite leaders, etc. It needs a big organisation such as the UN that can allow collaboration across stakeholders and countries and ensure the same standards are followed on sustainability everywhere, noted Dr. Nabulsi, adding: “We need to support less fortunate countries. We need a budget, leaders, policies, incentives, taxes, in addition to awareness. We need global stewardship to work towards a net zero carbon footprint.”
These sentiments were echoed by other panelists too. “We have a number of policies already in some of the Western countries, but we need a more global approach to this. We need to work with developing countries to improve resource management,” said Dr. Bernard Gouget, IFCC, France.
Accreditation is another effective way to nudge the pathology industry towards a more sustainable way of working, opine the industry leaders. “One of the best ways to get more effective in our message is to work with an accreditation and quality management organisation because sustainability should be part of the guidelines. If activation bodies try to enforce proper utilisation of resources in laboratories, in addition to their current focus on quality, it will help the cause,” said Prof Sergio Bernardini, IFCC Division on Emerging Technology, Italy.
Sustainability is an aspect of public health and should be accorded the same importance as other industries. “It is imperative that the government leads the charge on this front, otherwise the industry might not have the urge to commit to the cause. There should be guidance from the Ministry of Health. We need auditing to ensure compliance with standards. It will be great to see incentives or subsidies for SMEs and startups to encourage them to work on this front, concluded Dr. Nabulsi.
The global pathology laboratories market was valued at US$311.2 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.86 per cent from 2022 to 2030, as per Grand View Research.
The increase in the number of healthcare facilities in developing nations, the growing demand for routine medical check-ups, and the improvement in the reimbursement for diagnostic tests are major factors driving the market. Global regulations for this industry embedding sustainability as a key aspect of organisational operations could reduce the negative impact on the environment.