Healthcare playing its part in creating a more sustainable world

Middlemore Hospital anaesthetist Dr Rob Burrell is no stranger to accolades for his work, recently picking up an award from the Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Change Conference to acknowledge his ongoing work to reduce the use of anaesthetic desflurane in operating theatres.

Now he’s a finalist in the prestigious NZ Sustainable Business Awards to be held on 25 November.

“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.

“Anaesthetic drugs like desflurane contain halogen atoms such as chlorine, fluorine, and bromine which have the unfortunate propensity to trap heat in the upper atmosphere, creating greenhouse gases.”

Rob’s work on desflurane has been ground-breaking.

He and his colleagues, both localy and nationally, have made significant progress in reducing the use of desflurane within New Zealand with dramatic results - since 2015, the carbon footprint of general anaesthesia in New Zealand has fallen by over 90% without loss of clinician choice or impacts on patient safety. 

Dr Burrell has presented data, spoken at conferences locally and internationally, and has advocated for a change of practice and says the work is painstaking.

“We measure the size of our pollution profile and then work to manage it down.

“Both patients and clinicians can be reassured that healthcare will play its part in a more sustainable world.”

Hearty congratulations to Rob and his anaesthetic colleagues!




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anaesthetic sustainability

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