Sustainability in focus at SMHS
A project to recycle hand towels used in Perth’s Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) operating theatres is just one of many environmental sustainability initiatives being embraced by the South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS).
The linen ‘huck towels’ are used by theatre staff to dry their hands before operating and are discarded after a single use.
Now they are being collected and supplied to disability provider ParaQuad Industries to launder and sell, raising funds and creating employment for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
“Being the biggest hospital in the state allows us to make a significant impact, stop a large amount of huck towels going to landfill and recycle them for a great cause in the community,” said FSH Supplies, Linen and Waste Operations Manager Jay Leonard.
An initiative of the Green Theatres Group and facilities management partners Serco, this project is also helping to meet the SMHS Environmental Sustainability Framework goals.
Green Theatres Group’s Dr Jennifer Liddell said the project was an important step towards waste reduction across Fiona Stanley and Fremantle Hospitals.
“The Green Theatres Group was created by the anaesthetics department in early 2015 when the hospital first opened, and aims to introduce and promote systems that reduce the environmental impact of the operating suite activities,” Dr Liddell said.
“Environmental sustainability initiatives within theatres at FSH have been considered a high priority since the early stages of commissioning.
“Currently we can recycle commingled paper and plastics, metals, hard plastics, PVC and batteries, and we have trials of new streams planned for 2020. We are continually looking at ways to increase and improve upon these.”
The Green Theatres Group has taken a broad approach to sustainability with a ‘Reduce, Re-use and Recycle’ attitude. In addition to recycling, the group has implemented changes to reduce consumables and move away from single-use plastics towards more environmentally sustainable materials.
SMHS Chief Executive Paul Forden said there was a real commitment across the organisation to drive opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint and increase environmental sustainability.
“We have a sustainability implementation framework to guide activities which reduce waste, energy consumption, water use and food waste.
“There is also a commitment to ensure we have green and ethical purchasing policies in place for our procurement processes,” he said.
The framework is based on the goals of Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) — an international network of hospitals, healthcare facilities, health systems and health organisations dedicated to reducing their environmental footprint and promoting public and environmental health.
SMHS became a member of the GGHH Network in May 2019, aligning them with international best practice approaches in environmental sustainability.
“The most encouraging thing about our sustainability focus is the enthusiasm from our staff to be part of the change. They are coming up with the great ideas and providing innovative solutions to implement them,” Forden said.
“This has to be a social movement amongst our staff as they are the ones who will have the hands-on responsibility for sorting recyclables and making local changes, such as reducing paper use.
“As management, our responsibility is to make change at a broader level and ensure we are supporting our staff in their efforts by removing barriers to innovation and helping them to find solutions.”
Forden said it was also important to use technology to provide digital alternatives for patients to reduce travel and the associated emissions.
“WA already has a well-developed telehealth network through rural and remote centres, and we want to add to that by increasing the number of metropolitan patients accessing digital outpatients — this will be a win-win for patients and the environment.”
Learning from other health services and organisations is also important.
“Later this year we will host Dr David Pencheon from the NHS, who is a leader in sustainable health care. I know his input will inspire more fantastic ideas we can explore,” Forden said.
“Hospitals are huge consumers of energy and resources and we have a responsibility to our community to ensure we are playing our part in tackling climate change.”
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