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Collaborative Care for the Planet

Jenna Robinson, OR Clinical Nurse Educator, Dr. Marshall Cheng, Anesthesiologist, Nerrisa Bonifacio, Quality Improvement Lead and Post Anesthesia Care Unit/Surgical Day Care Clinical Nurse Educator.

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BC’s cooperative push towards sustainable clinical practices

While the health care sector has always been dedicated to promoting health and well-being, the system also has significant environmental costs. Health care contributes up to 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Recognizing the urgent need to reduce this carbon footprint, BC’s Low-Carbon, High-Quality Care Collaborative (LCHQ) is tackling emissions with a focus on perioperative care and respiratory medicine. Led by Health Quality BC (HQBC), in partnership with CASCADES Canada, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Planetary Health Department, and several BC Health Organizations, this initiative aims to lower the carbon impact of health care while improving patient care.

The collaborative launched in 2023:

  • mobilizing 18 Action & Improvement Teams,
  • composed of 100 participants,
  • across 23 sites throughout the province.

Their goal is to reduce the carbon emissions from clinical practices by 10 per cent by November 2024. To accomplish this, the collaborative is focused on practical changes in clinical settings, such as optimizing anesthetic gas use, curtailing unnecessary pre-operative testing, and transitioning to reusable medical items.

A notable aspect of this work is its provincially coordinated, patient-centered approach. Leveraging HQBC’s partnerships with patients and communities, care providers, health leaders, policymakers, senior executives, and academics, it is responsive to the unique dynamics of BC’s health care system and builds capacity where it is needed the most.

At Fraser Health Authority, several clinical teams are participating in the LCHQ Collaborative. Two teams are engaging in the sustainable perioperative stream, focusing on reducing waste from single-use operating room items, finding reusable alternatives and minimizing anesthetic gas usage. This initiative involves nurses, educators, physicians, quality leads, environmental sustainability leads, and planetary health leads.

Another team is enhancing patient education to promote low-carbon inhaler alternatives. They are gathering baseline data, developing patient handouts, and tracking the distribution of low-carbon inhalers. This team includes respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and physicians, all working to reduce the carbon footprint through informed patient choices and careful tracking.

From left to right: Team members Puneet Jammu, Rachel Lemire, Charlene Chojnacki, Hardip Atwal from Eagle Ridge Hospital.

While the initiative has a clinical focus, one of the best outcomes thus far is the community of practitioners, clinicians, and other contributors who share a purpose and passion. As Andrea Wnuk, Leader of Health System Improvement at HQBC, notes,

It’s been extremely inspiring to be a part of this work. I’m in awe of the excitement, engagement, and dedication to reduce the carbon footprint of clinical care while maintaining high-quality care for patients across BC.”

As the project heads towards its conclusion in November 2024, the focus will shift to the tangible results and future possibilities of this climate-conscious approach to health care. This initiative will serve as a blueprint for sustainable clinical practices across Canada and beyond.