Sunday, October 08, 2006

Environmentally Friendly Healthcare

In the heathcare industry, I am not proud to say, we create an inordinate amount of both biohazard waste as well as paper and plastic waste that is very poorly recycled. In a recent quest to improve our systems, I have come across two on-line organizations, Healthcare Without Harm, and Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, that provide a great deal of information on decreasing the impact of our current healthcare system. A lot of what we need to do comes down to increasing our effort in sorting the various biohazard wastes and plastics and paper wastes at the point of use, decreasing packaging, and convincing the administration that cheaper in the short run is not better in the long run. In the ridiculous push to cut costs at every corner, many hospitals have gone back to good ol' styrofoam for plates and cups and use in incredible amount of disposable items including utensils and even instruments for minor procedures. The vast majority of this waste is not recycled and in the usual fashion of administrators, their short-sightedness in cutting short term costs actually ends up increasing waste disposal costs in the long term. These two websites have various resources to learn about easy changes that can be made within a hospital as well as system-wide changes that can greatly reduce the use of toxic substances as well as improve disposal. At my two hospitals, French Hospital Medical Center and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, our owner corporation CHW has instituted a few changes, including phasing out IV tubing and bags with potentially toxic phalates. We still have a long way to go. We do have an Environmental Action Committee that's getting things rolling but you won't believe how hard it is even to get local organic foods served in the cafeteria!


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