Dr Lai Heng is the Emergency Medicine Specialist at Bankstown Hospital with expertise in Public Health, Disaster Medicine and Climate Change and Health, and is a member of the Indigenous Health Committee of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM)
ACEM is a not-for-profit organisation responsible for training emergency physicians and advancing professional standards in emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand. The Public Health and Disaster Committee has spearheaded the organisation in divesting from fossil fuels, declaring a climate emergency in November 2019.
Dr Lai Heng worked to inform the ACEMs Environmental Strategy, which affirms its commitment to addressing climate change and its impacts on health and healthcare systems.
An organisation-wide approach to climate action
The action plan is aligned to the same themes as the Strategic Vision including leadership, research, advocacy, partnerships, education and culture. ACEM and its members recognise that climate change requires both adaptation and mitigation, and therefore a mix of actions are outlined.”
All staff at the ACEM, including Emergency Department Directors, Fellows and trainees, are assigned actions under this plan.
According to Dr Lai Heng, the ACEM considers climate change and the associated health impacts to be a population health emergency. She spoke about how infectious diseases are becoming more prevalent, and mental health is a significant concern because of climate change.
We support all steps that will help us reduce our CO2 emissions and keep temperature down below 2, and ideally 1.5 degrees as recommended in the Paris Agreement.”
The medical community now has the confidence and trust of the community and can spread messages that link health impacts to climate change.”
The ACEM is walking the walk, having divested from fossil fuels and developing net-zero commitments across their facilities.
I would like the state government to commit to building a hospital that is run completely on renewables and is carbon neutral. The healthcare sector contributes 7% of emissions and we can certainly do better.”
ACEM targets all social determinants of health that intersect with climate change as they impact the most vulnerable people in communities, according to Dr Lai Heng.
I want sustainability to be mainstream, then everything else will follow. We have the technology and the know-how to build better. If the Government can subsidise fossil fuels, they can subsidise renewables.”