SINGAPORE: Mr Ng Kian Swan works at a hospital, but his job doesn't involve healing patients – it involves healing the environment.
The chief operating officer of Ng Teng Fong Hospital is on a mission to make the hospital greener by reducing water and energy consumption.
“Healthcare, although we heal patients, there is an interesting paradox … we use a lot of energy, we use a lot of consumables, and that generates a lot of waste, a lot of carbon emissions,” he said.
“You heal the patients but are not healing the ecosystem.”
From small changes like turning up the air-conditioning temperature in rooms to disrupting the way things have been done for years, Mr Ng has been looking at all the things that contribute to the hospital's footprint.
For instance, he used to get upset seeing employees wearing their sweaters in rooms that were too cold for comfort. He said the air-conditioning would be set at 18 degrees Celsius, making the outerwear necessary.
“That upsets me greatly because I just can’t reconcile this.”
Mr Ng, chairperson of the water and energy task force at the National University Health System (NUHS) cluster level, changed the practice.
“All air-con temperatures in offices and some other areas are now set at 25 (degrees),” he said.
CHANGING “LEGACY” PROCESSES
Mr Ng has also decreased the usage of air-conditioning, an electricity guzzler, in other ways that he said disrupted “legacy processes”.
“In the good old days, people always thought certain departments needed to run air-con 24/7, 365 (days). Actually, it’s not true,” he said.
At Ng Teng Fong, logistics and medical records offices are air-conditioned only from 8 am to 6 pm. The residual coolness is good enough to support the department, said Mr Ng.
“This is one big change, a very radical change,” he said.
He also changed how air-conditioning is used over the weekends when fewer employees work. Previously, even if one employee went to work in the corporate area, central air conditioning would be turned on.
Today, air-conditioning is not an option on weekends. If needed, employees are provided with a portable fan.
Another step on the greener path is turning operating theatres – of which there are 18 at NTFGH – to “sleep mode” when they are not in use, reducing the air-conditioning needed. These theatres use the most energy, Mr Ng said.
Another feature in the hospital is a solar system that converts natural sunlight into a heat source which is then used to generate 100 per cent of the hot water supply to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital, where Mr Ng is also a chief operating officer.
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