Will Clark, Executive Director - HCWH Europe
There is no doubt that 2020 will live in the memory for many years to come. Every single one of us has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, both personally and professionally. Our members, partners, and colleagues in the healthcare sector have of course been particularly affected, as they are all working tirelessly to tackle the virus and its effects on patients and citizens across Europe. We continue to recognise healthcare workers’ rapid and selfless response to the pandemic, not only to the immediate care of COVID-19 patients but also the surrounding challenges it has brought to our communities.
There have been many parallels drawn between the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis: both are fundamentally health threats that affect us on a global scale, placing a burden on the healthcare sector’s ability to deliver care. Despite the pandemic, we have seen leaders in the European healthcare sector step up and face a range of environmental challenges head-on. This has included innovations to safely reuse PPE and medical devices in an effort to combat the increased waste from COVID-19, all the way to an entire healthcare service making a public commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.
Like many other organisations, our own team has had to adapt the way we work in response to the pandemic. This has involved shifting our work online through remote-working and innovating and adapting our projects and events. Doing so has enabled us to continue our important work with our members and partners, driving efforts to reduce the environmental impact of healthcare in Europe and improving the health of European citizens. In spite of the disruption caused by the pandemic, we have launched new projects and networks during 2020. HCWH Europe has even grown during the year, with the exciting expansion of our Climate-smart Healthcare team as well as other new colleagues joining us.
You’re no doubt aware that we have also recently concluded the first online edition of CleanMed Europe. This two-week event attracted over 1,300 participants, which confirms that the movement for a low-carbon, circular healthcare sector in Europe is growing and gaining momentum. We are united in the common goal to do no harm in the delivery of healthcare and this gives me great hope and confidence for the future, as we move forward together in support of our mission.
As vaccines begin to roll out in parts of Europe, we can begin to see light at the end of the tunnel. Though there is of course some way still to go, we have learnt many lessons. Earlier this year, Health Care Without Harm developed its COVID-19 resource centre, which continues to be available as a source of guidance and support to all those engaged at the intersection of environment and health.
I believe we have much to look forward to and be positive about as we look forward to 2021. Early next year we will provide a more comprehensive overview of CleanMed Europe and our 2020 activities in our annual report, and will be in contact with you all about exciting new initiatives. For now, I hope that you can enjoy the holidays as safely as possible, following your local guidelines. For many of us, this will be a holiday like no other, but I hope that it will be a period of calm and reflection. I look forward to rejoining my colleagues and our members in the New Year rejuvenated and ready to continue our work to create a more sustainable healthcare system in Europe.