NEWS FROM LACOR HOSPITAL – FALL 2022
Wherever you live, the mornings bring light and colour to the sky. A new day and a renewal of hope that the earth has generously offered every species for over four billion years. Every day is a chance to learn from nature and science, and to pass that knowledge on to the next generation.
At Lacor Hospital, everyone tries to do better to protect our beloved earth by reducing the hospital’s impact on the environment.
The articles in this issue explore the measures Lacor takes to ensure a better environmental future while providing efficient patient care. The electrical network and solar power bring energy to the hospital, while the abundance of plants and the water tanks help manage the reality of a hospital’s complex system. In a context where infrastructure and national services are often absent or inadequate, many of the hospital’s operational systems are “homemade”. Everything results from the competence of Lacor’s technical department, which was led for many years by our dearest late Brother Elio Croce.
While Lacor Hospital’s mission is focused on health, environmental protection must be a fundamental pillar of its approach to care. In the same way that Lacor serves its patients and its local environment, donors from all over the world care for the wellbeing of the hospital and its staff. It’s a beautiful and pure exchange where everyone appreciates one another.
We wish you a happy, bountiful autumn, filled with light and colour.
Solar energy is clean and renewable, and it is relatively easy and affordable to exploit with today’s technologies. Solar radiation in Uganda is intense and constant throughout the year: the country ranks 77th in the world for photovoltaic potential. The northern region, where the hospital stands, is also the most promising in the country. Lacor has been able to take advantage of the availability of solar resources by gradually installing photovoltaic modules and thermal solar panels to produce electricity and hot water.
Photovoltaic modules are installed on the roofs of five buildings (hospital wards and university campus) for a total installed power of 315 kW and a total area of about 1500 square metres. In the mid- hours of the day, modules respond completely to the electricity requirements of the hospital, while in the morning and evening the production must be integrated with energy from the national electricity grid. Annually, it is estimated that the photovoltaic modules cover 30% of the hospital’s required electrical energy.
Solar thermal panels, which produce hot water at about 70/80°C, are installed on the roofs of about twenty buildings. These systems allow the use of hot water even in the evening hours, and they are mainly dedicated to domestic hot water production in guest and doctors’ houses, covering 100% of their needs.
A small plant heats the 15- to 20-bed nursery, where premature babies are hospitalized. Here, a radiator relies on hot water coils coming from the solar panels. Finally, the largest plant is used for water for the main laundry. Here, about 300kg of linen are washed every day at a temperature between 60 and 90°C. It is estimated that the system allows savings of up to 70% of electricity costs.
Thanks to the skills of Lacor’s employees and the willingness of its directors to find ecological resources, the hospital can reduce its expenses and be more energy autonomous.
A critical issue in Uganda is land degradation. Extensive crops, deforestation to produce charcoal and firewood, and the use of pesticide and herbicide chemicals are all risk factors for the ecosystem. A report from the World Bank estimates that 41% of Uganda’s land is degraded. As a response, Lacor Hospital promotes the use of sustainable agricultural.
The Nutrition and Agriculture Project promoted by the Riva Foundation was introduced at Lacor in 2017 with the aim of providing fresh quality food produced on-site. Lacor created a four-hectare vegetable garden bordering the perimeter wall of Lacor; the garden provides food to patients and guests of the hospital. Different crops are planted, both outside and inside the unheated greenhouses, including tomatoes, lettuce, eggplants, onions, cucumbers, peppers, and many other varieties of fruits and vegetables, protected by rows of maize plants, which serve as a screen from dust and insects.
The crops are irrigated with a drop-by-drop system fed by the hospital’s water plant. One of the aspects making this project so innovative is the use of organic fertilizers. Solid and liquid residues from the local breeding of about 100 rabbits are used to produce organic compost fertilizer for plant and insect repellent; to clean rabbit cages, a disinfectant based on rice and water is great for removing odors. A mixture of garlic and chili peppers is another remedy to ward off insects.
The other activity to promote sustainable agriculture is the cultivation of eucalyptus plants in a plot of about 40 hectares. Once grown, eucalyptus trees can be used for construction and firewood. Plants grow rapidly, about two metres per year. After four or five years, the plants are ready to be used. The sustainability of the project will be guaranteed by the replacement of trees cut with new young plants.
An abundance of plants and trees located between the departments of medicine, employee residences, and school buildings, and carefully cultivated by hospital workers, communicates to the patients that, in this place, nature is important.
Lacor Hospital has adopted various solutions to reduce waste and the consumption of resources. Here are a few of those solutions.
Improved stoves: The hospital’s kitchens, where lunches for patients and students get prepared, are equipped with stoves using improved wood (no charcoal). The wood is able to maintain the same temperature for a long time, thus reducing the consumption of firewood. Although, in absolute terms, this is not the most sustainable environmental solution, it is still a remarkable improvement with respect to practices most commonly used in Uganda, where traditional three-stone fires and charcoal are one of the main causes of deforestation and air pollution. According to an estimate of the World Health Organization, 1.6 million people die every year around the world due to indoor air pollution.
Rainwater harvesting: Rainwater collected from the roofs supplements washing dishes and clothes. It is also used for sterilizers and in the laundry room. For these uses, it is in fact not necessary to use drinking water from the main tanks, which require energy for pumping from wells. The total capacity of rainwater tanks is about 295,000 litres.
A lot has been accomplished to make the hospital more environmentally efficient and sustainable by taking advantage of the resources at hand. The continuous improvement of these installations remains a priority for the Lacor management. You can help Lacor by donating funds to the Infrastructure Chapter of Become Part of the Story.