Original story submitted to PHC Connect (internal newsletter) by Agnes Black, Director, Health Services & Clinical Research and Knowledge Translation, and Theresa McElroy, Corporate Director Strategic Planning Management.
Health care systems account for almost 5% of overall greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and as health care providers and leaders, that’s our area of potential influence and impact.
In fall 2023, Providence Health Care’s (PHC) Environmental Stewardship Team (ESTeam) announced the first Planetary Health Funding Awards to advance sustainability through funding and mentorship support for teams of PHC clinicians and staff. Meet the four newly funded teams who in 2024 will complete projects focused on reducing our carbon footprint, while improving care for patients and families:
1. Assessment of the Environmental Impact of Digital Pathology on Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Healthcare Settings
Dr. Wei Xiong and Dr. Andre Mattman
This project will investigate the environmental footprint associated with the adoption of digital pathology in health care settings. The project’s findings will help pave a green pathway for digital pathology implementation in BC.
2. Improving the health of patients with congenital heart disease in BC while reducing the carbon footprint associated with cardiac care
Dr. Andrew Sullivan & Team
Dr. Andrew Sullivan is leading a team that plans to establish the role of the Remote Monitoring Program for pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators, reducing the need for patients to travel long distances for heart rhythm care. This project is poised to redefine the way health care is delivered to this population, while also contributing towards a greener environment by reducing the use of private and public transport for patients and their families.
3. Tackling Waste Associated with Multidose Inhalers (MDIs)
Angela Lo & Team
While an MDI can hold up to 200 doses, current practice is to discard inhalers when the order is discontinued, even if only one dose has been used. Angela Lo is leading a team piloting a process to wash MDI sleeves and disinfect canisters so that the entire MDI unit can be re-dispensed, thereby using as many doses within each MDI as possible. The carbon footprint of each MDI is significant: one inhaler (with 200 doses) can have the equivalent emissions of a 580-km car journey. This project has the potential to reduce the number of inhalers required by at least ~3300 per year for MSJ/SPH (66% less units). This will not only significantly reduce wastage and expenditure, but would decrease our carbon footprint by 76,263,000 gCO2e (3300 x average of 9720 to 36500 gCO2e per unit). This is equivalent to the emission of a bus going 18 times around the circumference of earth!
4. Rescued Foods at St. Paul’s Hospital
Betty Sung & Team
Betty Sung and the Food Services team are seeking ways to solve the huge problem of food waste in Canada. Per madeincanada.ca, “Canadians create over 50 million tons of food waste every year despite 60% of it being avoidable through better planning and awareness” and the Canadian Public Health Association notes that “In 2021, at least 5.8 million people across Canada’s provinces were living with insecure or inadequate access to food.” Foods produced in excess from patient and retail foods services at SPH will be provided to outpatient programs such as the Overdose Prevention Site. This project not only decreases PHC’s environmental footprint through waste reduction but can also support populations visiting SPH who live with food insecurity.
These awards are sponsored by the PHC Environmental Stewardship Team, and organized by Aggie Black, Theresa McElroy, Holly van Heukelom, Dr. Victor Leung, Beena Parappilly, Ileana Costrut (EES Consultant) and Dr. Trina Montemurro.