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Big steps achieve smaller footprints!

A huge congratulations to Dr Rob Burrell and the Anaesthetic Team for their valuable work reducing CM Health's carbon footprint by 650 tonnes of CO2 equivalents each year. 

“Healthcare, though life-changing and life-saving, can be a dirty business. It is responsible for 4% of global pollution, including dust, oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, and plastic waste, and it makes a potent contribution to climate change. Anaesthesia is one of the most polluting specialities, and volatile anaesthesia agents (the gases which keep people asleep) are extremely potent greenhouse gases,” says Dr Burrell.

Dr Burrell is passionate about greenhouse gas reduction and went about seeking ways to implement change.

In 2015, the Anaesthesia Department embarked on a journey to reduce its drug-related carbon footprint, which makes up the largest fraction of anaesthesia’s pollution profile. By measuring monthly use and allowing for monthly case load, the department has focused on managed reduction without loss of clinician choice or impacts on patient safety. 

“With great equipment, a concerted and prolonged campaign of teamwork, and focused professional effort, this educated and passionate workforce has achieved a remarkable sustained reduction in environmental harm. We went from almost 1 000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year to around 150 tonnes, “says Dr Burrell.

The work done at CM Health is acknowledged globally, and Dr Burrell has recently presented to the College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland, the NZ Society of Anaesthetists, and most recently to the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, and the Australian and NZ Society of Respiratory Science.

“The challenges for these groups are the same - measure the size of your pollution profile, pick the lowest hanging fruit, and then manage it down. You need to try to take clinicians on a common journey using education, encouragement, and feedback. Both patients and clinicians can be reassured that healthcare will play its part in a more sustainable world,” says Dr Burrell.

In June, Dr Burrell also received an award from the Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Change Conference to acknowledge this work.

Congratulations to the team.

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sustainability surgery carbon footprint workforce anaesthetic

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