At South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD), we recognise the benefits of an environmentally sustainable healthcare system. Improving our environmental performance will have health and financial rewards for our community, as well as environmental advantages for the planet.
We have undertaken a greenhouse gas emissions assessment of our services and are developing a sustainability strategy. It recognises that half of the Australian health system’s carbon footprint is from hospitals and almost 20% is from pharmaceuticals.
Therefore, as well as energy and recycling, we will also be focussing on:
- Primary and community-based care
- The judicious use of resources, including pharmaceuticals
- Less waste and duplication
- Innovative, low-carbon models of care
Did you know that in Australia, the health system’s carbon footprint is 7% of our total national emissions – the same as the entire emissions of the state of South Australia? At SESLHD, we are strongly committed to the NSW Government’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The support and involvement of patients, staff and our community are welcome. Please contact us for information.
As part of its ongoing duty to improve the environmental sustainability of the district, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District has joined the Global Green and Healthy Hospital (GGHH) network. A green and healthy hospital is one that promotes public health by continuously reducing its environmental impact and ultimately eliminating its contribution to the burden of disease within the community.
Primary, Integrated and Community Health is overseeing the development of our Environmental Sustainability Plan 2019 – 2021. Greg Stewart, Director, Primary, Integrated and Community Health, said the overarching theme of the plan is the recognition of the connection between human health and the environment. It addresses how the district demonstrates this understanding through its governance, strategy and operations.
“It's important we join with health organisations around the world to reduce the environmental footprint of the health sector. With assistance from the GGHH network, we aim to reduce our carbon footprint, become more climate resilient, and exert leadership to help transition to a low carbon future,” Dr Stewart said.
The GGHH network has more than 1,160 members across 55 countries, representing the interests of over 36,000 hospitals and health centres. The GGHH has 10 interconnected sustainability goals for members to work towards, these are:
1. LEADERSHIP: Prioritise environmental health
2. CHEMICALS: Substitute harmful chemicals with safer alternatives
3. WASTE: Reduce, treat and safely dispose of healthcare waste
4. ENERGY: Implement energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy generation
5. WATER: Reduce hospital water consumption and supply potable water
6. TRANSPORTATION: Improve transportation strategies for patients and staff
7. FOOD: Purchase and serve sustainably grown, healthy food
8. PHARMACEUTICALS: Safely manage and dispose of pharmaceuticals
9. BUILDINGS: Support green and healthy hospital design and construction
10. PURCHASING: Buy safer and more sustainable products and materials
Each GGHH member is asked to focus initially on two to three areas. SESLHD will focus on leadership, waste and energy.
To support members in their efforts to implement initiatives and projects related to the 10 agenda goals and the Health Care Climate Challenge, GGHH offers access to innovative tools and resources, events, webinars, and more. For more information click here.
In order to support its local Environmental Sustainability Plan, Uniting War Memorial Hospital (UWMH) has become a member of Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH).
GGHH is an international network of hospitals, health care facilities, health systems, and health organisations dedicated to reducing their environmental footprint while promoting public and environmental health. Members pledge to work under the shared goal of reducing the environmental footprint of the health sector.
UWMH have pledged to work specifically towards the goals of
- Leadership – to prioritise environmental health as a strategic imperative
- Waste – to reduce, treat and safely dispose of healthcare waste
GGHH offers educational and interactive monthly webinars on topics ranging from the GGHH sustainability goals, to current events of interest and important research & publications.
UWMH’s Green Team consists of a range of staff members from executive, clinical, environmental services and administrative areas. It is exploring opportunities to address important environmental issues around the campus as well as engaging staff, clients and visitors in seeing the vital importance of environmentally sustainable healthcare. They are also considering how different models of care may have a reduced environmental impact.
Jane McGuire, Service Manager/Deputy Director of Nursing, UWMH, hopes that by having cross campus membership, initiatives will have good uptake and sustainability, overall achieving behavioural changes.
“UWMH is proud to be a leader within SESLHD in the establishment of sustainable modelling for current and future health service delivery. We recognise that there are finite resources to deliver healthcare to an ageing population and also for future generations to enjoy the world around us,” Ms McGuire said. “With the support of SESLHD Environmental Sustainability Lead, Dr Kate Charlesworth, and GGHH, we aim to identify opportunities to generate both environmental and financial capacity in existing services and to then re-invest back into smarter service delivery.”
UWMH launched their environmental plan during a hospital Work Health Safety barbeque in October 2018. In the future it will be incorporated into standard business practices. At the barbeque, staff members measured their individual carbon footprint, proposed green ideas, nominated themselves as champions and recycled household e-waste items.
More information on GGHH can be found here.
Pic: War Memorial Green Team left to right: Jill Hall, Julia Fisher, Annabel Kingsford, Jane Mcguire, Natsuho Takita, Marie Bradley, Gerard Hyde
Sutherland Hospital’s The Street Canteen and Prince of Wales’ Barker Street Canteen have announced they are going green. Each cafe has introduced paper straws and bags, as well as bamboo cutlery.
In addition, customers who bring along a reusable cup for their drink orders will receive a 20 cent discount on their purchase. These changes to the café operations mean that by mid-year plastic containers will be phased out.
Nora and Rouby Sidarous, owners of the cafés, said that by moving towards the use of more sustainable resources they hope to minimise their ecological footprint.
“It is estimated that three billion coffee cups are sold in Australia each year, and many of those aren’t recycled. Our café staff are hopeful that by offering a discount to customers who bring their own reusable coffee cup that we can help reduce landfill and likewise for our strategies to discourage the use of single-use plastic utensils,” Mr Sidarous said.
In an initiative to decrease waste and increase recycling, the St George Hospital Emergency Department (ED) has created team “Green Dragon”.
Staff understand the department creates a lot of waste and although some of it is necessary due to clinical single use, the team wants to make the department more environmentally friendly.
To date, a lot of the initiatives have been based around staff consumables, such as disposable coffee cups, plastic water bottles and cans. ED staff have embraced the initiative with the majority now using their own reusable cups and drink bottles.
Dr Kara Gray, Emergency Registrar, St George Hospital, explained that the team proposed the idea of purchasing branded reusable coffee cups. Due to the costs involved however, this option was not possible.
“Everyone would have ended up with the same cup, so we’ve been focusing more on encouraging people to bring their own reusable one,” Dr Gray said.
Also strategically placed around the ED are small Return and Earn bins for cans and bottles. These are collected in a large wheelie bin and taken to the Return and Earn recycling hub in Rockdale.
“We get the big wheelie bin filled approximately once a month and receive around $25 per time. It’s not a lot of money but it is lots of bottles. The first time we did it we ran a competition to see who could guess what refund we would get and used it to purchase a prize of a Keep Cup. In the future we’ll probably use the refunds for more recycling bins or other resources to help our cause.”
In an initiative lead by the Royal Hospital for Women's Domestic Services Department, a significant percentage of their PVC Intravenous (I/V) bags are now being diverted from landfill to recycling.
In collaboration with the Vinyl Council of Australia, Baxter Healthcare supports hospitals to recycle clean PVC after clinical use. This program is a cost efficient way to dispose of recyclable materials and reduces landfill.
All ward areas now have 50 litre tubs with appropriate labelling and an initial training program has been provided to each area by a member of the Baxter Healthcare team and Ms Patricia Orr, Manager, Domestic Services.
“Members of the waste management team within Domestic Services will regularly empty the ward bins and place the bags in one 240 litre bin for collection, Ms Orr said. “We will regularly audit the bins and provide follow up training as necessary.
Once recycled, Australian manufacturers will receive the granulated PVC to make hoses, safety mats and other products. Recycling PVC also results in reduced carbon emissions. Compared with incineration for clinical waste, recycling a PVC IV bag reduces CO2 emissions by 77%. When compared with general waste disposal, recycling a PVC IV bag results in a CO2 emissions reduction of up to 20%.
Currently, over 55 hospitals have signed up for the PVC Recycling In Hospitals program across Australia and New Zealand.
Waste management is a significant cost – both financial and environmental - to the District. As part of the ongoing environmental sustainability activity occurring across SESLHD, round tables and walk-throughs have been conducted at St George Hospital and the Randwick campus to discuss waste management.
SESLHD has recently become a member of Sustainability Advantage (SA) – a program within the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage which assists organisations across NSW to achieve better environmental practices. Richard Birdsey from SA and Robyn Pearson, a waste management consultant, sat down with a wide range of staff members to discuss current issues and projected outcomes for a waste management strategy, then took a tour of the key areas across each hospital.
Staff included representatives from Corporate Services, the Emergency Department, the Operating Theatres, the Kitchens, Maternity, Infection Control, pathology and domestic services. Many issues were discussed, including the importance of avoiding waste in the first place through more thoughtful procurement strategies. Other subjects included recycling, staff education and the need for appropriate, clear signage for staff, patients and visitors.
One example of the complexity of waste management in a hospital setting was the Operating Theatres at St George Hospital. Anaesthetics Fellow Marcus Kornmehl and Registrar Matthew Overton spoke about the 8 types of syringes used during procedures and the fact that 4 different bins are required for disposal.
“This creates a lot of confusion for staff members,” Mr Overton said.
Richard and Robyn were very impressed with the great work underway at St George and Randwick, and are keen to assist SESLHD with several initiatives. Robyn Pearson is writing the SESLHD Waste Management Plan (a Ministry of Health policy directive) looking for further opportunities to save money and save carbon within our waste management. She will consider the need for consistent systems, education and reinforcement. This will feed into the SESLHD sustainability action plan.
In summing up the visits, Richard Birdsey pointed out how the cost of waste is often hidden, and how important it is to remember that waste can be incredibly complex for what is considered such a simple thing. He emphasized the importance of the first step in the waste hierarchy: REDUCE.
“We buy our waste,” Mr Birdsey said. “Whilst recycling is important, we need to consider the whole supply chain to really address the waste issue.”
Pic: Izat Zayed & Zoran Markovski from St George Hospital waste management
As part of a major environmental sustainability project, lighting within Prince of Wales Hospital, The Royal Hospital for Women and The Sydney Children’s Hospital will be replaced with energy efficient LED lighting.
Roy Imperial, Electrician, Engineering Services said the lighting upgrade will benefit the campus in many different ways, including:
- A major reduction in energy consumption, saving money on campus power bills
- A decrease in replacing bulbs, freeing-up electricians for other more important projects
- Providing better illumination throughout the campus, creating a safer environment for staff, patients and visitors
- The new panels are sealed, providing a more hygienic environment (no moths or insects can collect in the lighting fixtures)
- A saving on the ongoing disposal of the old fluorescent tubes (normally $1 per tube)
- Reducing the campus’ carbon footprint.
“This project is well underway with street lighting, corridor lighting and several wards already receiving the upgrade,” Mr Imperial said. “It’s amazing to see the quality difference this lighting has made to the spaces we have changed already.”
Normal twin fluorescent tubes are rated at 72 watts, while the LED equivalent is only 30 watts. If a ward is using 100 fittings, use of LED fittings means there is a saving of 4,200watts per hour (or 4.2kwh).
In dollar terms, 4.2 kwh over 20 hours equals 84kwh - and 84kwh multiplied by $0.37 (the current price for electricity) equals a saving of $31 per day.
This project is a finalist in the ‘Safe and Healthy Workplace’ category at the 2018 SESLHD Improvement and Innovation Awards. Winners will be announced on July 19.
Pic: Frank Mallia, Garry Cooper, William Liu and Roy Imperial from Engineering Services in front of the newly arrived shipment.