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Washington Hospital Takes Green Initiative into the OR

April 16, 2013

According to Practice Greenhealth, a national organization for healthcare institutions that have made a commitment to environmentally responsible practices, the operating room (OR) is one of the largest users of supplies within hospitals as well as one of the largest producers of waste. In fact, case studies have estimated that up to 30 percent of the total waste generated by a hospital comes from the OR.

Washington Hospital is taking part in a new initiative, called Greening the OR, as part of its ongoing effort to reduce, reuse and recycle hospital waste. The initiative is a collaborative effort to envision what the green operating room of the future might look like, and what kinds of products, programs and best management practices hospitals can focus on as a means of getting there.

"We recognize the critical link between the health of each individual and the health of the environment," said Paul Kelley, Director of Biomedical Engineering and the Hospital's Green Initiative. "That's why we are committed to environmentally responsible practices and are taking the lead to promote a healthier community."

Employee engagement is a critical element of Washington Hospital's environmental efforts. To address OR-specific recycling opportunities - and raise awareness about how individual departments can contribute to making the Hospital greener - the OR staff at Washington Hospital last year created a mini Green Team.

Along with the operating room and holding area staff, the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) staff quickly joined in to help plan a joint recycling initiative. Ideas were solicited from staff, and the OR Green Team evaluated the ideas for feasibility. Joan Novacek, R.N., initiated the first effort with the introduction of clear white recycling bags in the Hospital's Holding Area. The idea was quickly embraced by staff and physicians. To help keep the initiative going, signs are now posted throughout the OR and PACU that illustrate what is recyclable and appropriate for the clear white recycling bags and what is not.

Although hard to measure by volume, the OR Green Team estimates as many as 1000 bags have been used to recycle waste in Perioperative Services since the project began.

"So many people throughout the Hospital are enthusiastic about reducing our environmental impact," adds Kelley. "Going green has been a real team effort."

Kelley has chaired the Hospital's Green Team Committee since August 2008. Since the committee's formation, the hospital has implemented a wide range of waste reduction measures, including a facility-wide recycling and compostables collection program. To prevent waste, the hospital has replaced plastic foam food service ware and other disposable products in their cafeteria with recyclable and compostable ware. Working with their suppliers, the hospital has also switched from cardboard boxes to reusable totes for produce deliveries to the cafeteria, reducing cardboard waste.

Currently, the Hospital is searching for a waste carrier to collect blue wrap waste, which is the material that keeps instrument trays sterile prior to surgery. The OR Green Team continues to look for other recycling savings through the use of non-disposable and re-washable items in Perioperative Services

To learn more about Washington Hospital's "Green Team" initiatives, visit www.whhs.com/green.

Save the Date!

To help promote a cleaner and greener environment, Washington Hospital and the City of Fremont are observing Earth Day by hosting a special community event that will focus on how all of us can help make our community a healthier place.

What: Let's Go Green Together!
Date/Time: Saturday, April 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Conrad E. Anderson M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont.
Learn More: www.whhs.com/green

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