With how advanced modern medicine and medical technology have become, it’s easy to forget how many natural resources are used in the various mechanisms for healthcare delivery. From the fuel used to rush the injured and ill to emergency care to the plastics manufactured for surgical tubing, both natural resources and their synthetic equivalents play a vital role in modern hospitals and clinics. For example, the modern pharmaceutical industry utilizes well over a hundred different kinds of natural plants to develop and concentrate drugs for human treatments. Stainless steel is used widely in hospitals for surgical procedures and various tools, given that its versatility and corrosion resistance allow it to be easily cleaned. Stainless steel hospital equipment, like other varieties of stainless steel, is treated with chromium to boost corrosion resistance. Modern hospitals depend on this property of stainless steel to sterilize surgical equipment quickly and effectively, as well as vastly reducing the chances of contamination that would otherwise develop in the microscopic indentations of a corroded piece of medical equipment.
Other medical equipment depending on natural resources include the extraordinarily powerful magnets used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, which allow radiologists to map out a person’s soft tissues. Magnetic resonance imaging greatly enhances the precision in medical diagnostics. X-rays and computerized tomography scans (CT scans) also utilize natural radioactive materials to help diagnose fractures, tumors, and other structural deformities in the body. With the advent of minimally-invasive surgical procedures, surgeons use thin plastic tubes through which miniature cameras are inserted to monitor the surgery and aid the surgeon in localizing the procedure as much as possible. Oil-based plastics are used at every stage in the healthcare delivery process, from the equipment in ambulances to operating room procedures to exercise equipment used in physical therapy during post-operative care. Whether hospitals are involved with cardio-thoracic surgery procedures, neurosurgical procedures, pediatrics or other hospital services, natural resources are critical to be able to offer tertiary services.
Given that we possess a finite quantity of natural resources that could potentially bottleneck the number of advanced hospital procedures available for citizens, many hospitals have begun to explore energy conservation at every stage of the healthcare delivery process. Several municipalities now contract solar panels for their ambulances, as well as electrical hybrid vehicles for patient transport and in-home care. Modern hospital construction implements energy-saving protocol during the building process, including certified green energy lighting fixtures and insulation. Other options include research and development for synthetic materials to replace or reduce the number of natural resources used in the healthcare delivery process. These synthetic products, depending on their application, often produce less waste than their natural equivalents.