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Small changes to make a big difference for greener health care

A busy frontline care team spotted a chance to reduce plastic waste and took action. Working with PHSA Supply Chain and the GreenCare Energy and Environmental Sustainability Team, they managed to spark province-wide green changes.
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Tracey Swallow, BC Children’s & Women Leader, Patient Safety Quality and Accreditation and Parminder Kaila antepartum/postpartum RN. 

Taking action for environmental sustainability

A group in the postpartum ward at BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre wanted to cut plastic waste in their work. 

Their team didn't need the plastic bags and tubing that came along with sitz baths – basins for people to sit in warm, shallow water, commonly used after childbirth.

"The bags were such a waste that nobody used," said Parm Kaila, antepartum/postpartum RN. The team had been concerned about the plastic waste for a long time, but had been told it was just the way the product came.

"When we found out about the work of sustainability consultants in our health system, we realized that maybe we could actually do something," explained Parm.

Sabrina Yeh, RN, perinatal clinical educator; Erlinda Jalandoon, postpartum RN; and Parminder Kaila, antepartum/postpartum RN are passionate about reducing waste at BC Women's Hospital.

Working with the BC Women's Hospital quality team and sustainability consultants in the GreenCare Energy and Environmental Sustainability Team, they to analyzed the problem and consider possible solutions.

Left to right: Melanie Fegarido, clinical coordinator with PHSA Supply Chain; Solomon Odeyale, buyer, strategic sourcing – continuing health with PHSA, Sonja Janousek, sustainability consultant – environmentally preferable purchasing & safer Chemicals with the GreenCare Energy and Environmental Sustainability Team

In total, 5220 sitz basins were used in B.C. between April 2018 and March 2019, and half of those were at BC Women's Hospital. That meant about 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of unused plastic had been sent to landfill from BC Women's sitz basin use alone.

Frontline staff are essential to identify these kinds of to make PHSA a greener and more environmentally-sustainable organization, said Berna Marcelino, Provincial Director, Standardization with PHSA Supply Chain.

"It's the end-users like this team who really improve sustainability," Berna said. "Yes, it's Supply Chain that purchases products, but frontline caregivers use those products, see how much waste is being generated, and can identify these important opportunities for sustainability."

PHSA Supply Chain worked with the sitz basin vendor to customize the product to remove the unnecessary plastic. The switch not only reduces plastic waste, but also saves money for the B.C. health care system by reducing the bag-free sitz basin cost by about 20 per cent.

"We often think environmentally sustainability means more expensive, but this is a great example of where a change both reduced waste, and also reduced costs," said Sonja Janousek, a sustainability consultant who supported the change.

"It's a small dent, nonetheless a dent in the right direction" said Parm. 

"Learning about Sonja's team – the GreenCare Energy & Environmental Sustainability Team - allowed us to make a change that we at BC Women's are all passionate about." 

The Energy and Environmental Sustainability Team serves four health care organizations in British Columbia's Lower Mainland. Lead by the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Team, the GreenCare Community is an umbrella for a wide range of energy and environmental sustainability strategies, programs and projects. Learn more about the GreenCare Community and its work to reduce the environmental impact of health care operations and improve the resiliency of  human and environmental health.

BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre
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