Original story posted on The Beat by Gurneet Rana, pharmacist, Neonatal and Pediatric Pharmacy.
More than 41,000 paper and plastic bags are now being saved from the landfill each year thanks to initiatives undertaken by the Neonatal and Pediatric Pharmacy at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
The Neonatal and Pediatric Pharmacy at Surrey Memorial Hospital went above and beyond caring for the future environment of their hospital’s tiniest patients.
Neonatal and Pediatric Pharmacy Coordinator Brandi Newby led a challenge from Patient Care Coordinator Theresa Gee to create a more sustainable practice of packaging and delivering medications in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Thanks to a collaborative effort between nurses, pharmacy technicians and pharmacists on the unit, Brandi and the unit staff were able to replace paper and plastic bags with reusable containers to deliver medications.
We eliminated plastic bags by applying pharmacy labels directly to medication syringes and foil-packaged tablets,” explains Kathleen Vince, pharmacy technician. “Additionally, reusable containers replaced plastic and paper bags to deliver medications and total parenteral nutrition to patient rooms, all while still meeting medication management standards set out by Accreditation Canada.”
Combined, the team estimates that these initiatives save 789 plastic bags per week – which adds up to a whopping 41,028 bags per year.
Staff from the Neonatal and Pediatric Pharmacy would like to challenge other pharmacy departments and patient care units to consider how they can reduce plastic and paper waste.
“Together, we can work to eliminate the plastic pollution in our marine ecosystems and preserve our natural resources for our future generations.”
The Need to Reduce Plastics in the Health System
The Word Health Organization (WHO) estimates that a general metropolitan hospital of a high-income country generates approximately 10.7 kilograms of health care waste per occupied bed per day. In the U.S., it is estimated that approximately 1.7 million tonnes of this medical waste per year is plastics. The convenience of single-use plastics is overshadowed by the devastating implications on the environment, since not only are fossil fuels required to produce the plastics, but many plastics contribute to marine ecosystem pollution if not recycled appropriately. These toxic plastics can remain intact in the marine environment for centuries and have persistent harm on marine life.