Spotlight on Sustainability
This edition of “Spotlight on Sustainability” takes a look at the efforts of Perioperative Services to maintain a sustainable workplace. Our surgical units, including the Pavilions OR, Same Day Surgery Center, and Children’s Surgery Center, are very busy places, but there are dedicated folks in each unit who are working to weave sustainable practices into daily activities.
Those of you who have been around awhile may recall an article in The Insider (http://bit.ly/10zQeHe) describing efforts in the old Main OR, led by Joh Olson and Kathy Donaldson, to recycle plastic packaging. The Med Center did not have a system set up to manage the recycling of plastic so Joh and Kathy went to Bob Taylor, who, at the time, headed up Professional and Safety Services, to seek a solution. One was found, and it eventually led to the single-stream recycling that we all use today.
Today there is a robust recycling program in place, with recycling hampers in place in each operating room. Besides providing an avenue by which plastic packaging and similar can be recycled, these hampers also provide a home for the “blue wrap” that is used to wrap instruments for the sterilizing process. We are fortunate that our waste vendor accepts blue wrap in our recycling single stream, as it provides an easy and effective means by which the blue wrap can go on to other uses instead of being landfilled. Even better, the Central Processing Unit has been able to reduce blue wrap usage by adding reusable rigid sterilization cases.
The Perioperative units are also primary participants in the program for the reprocessing of single use medical devices by an outside reprocessor. As described elsewhere on the Sustainability website, such reprocessing permits so-called “single-use medical devices” to be collected and sent to a remanufacturing site. Specific devices are disassembled, inspected, reassembled and sterilized to enable them to be reused again instead of discarded as medical waste. In some instances, we are able to purchase these reprocessed items at a significant discount from the cost of new. The Medical Center saved over $500,000 in the past twelve months by buying reprocessed devices that are used throughout the Hospital.
In yet another effort to keep good materials from going to the landfill, staffers set aside surplus medical supplies, such as kits that have been opened to obtain only one or two items, instead of throwing them out. Pavilion OR Staff Educator Carrie Westlake obtained an unoccupied room and as essentially filled it with such surplus supplies, knowing that there’s potential for them to be put to good use. Turns out that she’s right, as our new partnership with MedShare International will support the distribution of these surplus supplies to hospitals in 3rd World countries.
Moreover, many perfectly usable supplies are pulled off the shelf because of printed expiration dates, and may be resterilized by an outside service provider. We’ll look at these resterilization opportunities selectively to ensure quality and safety of these supplies, while reducing supply costs and waste.
The new ORs in the Pavilion also contribute to sustainability through energy efficiency. The new surgical lights use cool and efficient LEDs instead of the older style units, likely halogen, that were energy hogs that emitted a lot of heat. In addition, a project is underway to set back the ventilation requirements when the OR suites are not in use. Since the ORs get 100% outside air at a high rate, being able to reduce the air flow during off-hours will save quite a bit of energy.
There’s also a project underway which is investigating opportunities for replacing many of the disposable surgical linens, used in great quantity here, with reusable surgical linens. This is much easier said than done, particularly with some of the restrictions in our supplier contracts, but it’s likely that we’ll see some activity in the coming year, particularly as Sustainability Intern Joanne Brasch is focusing on the replacement of disposable linens with reusables for her doctoral research.
The ORs have done, and continue to do, a lot to promote sustainable practices. If this can be accomplished in this super-busy environment, it seems that we should be able to accomplish this throughout the Health System.
What have you do to green-up your work environment recently?