The operation was a success

The operation was a success!

The Ipswich Hospital anaesthesia team is making environmental sustainability a by-product of their life-enhancing work.

To reduce the enormous waste generated by single-use medical products, Anaesthetic Consultant Dr Rajesh Pachchigar has led Operation Clean Up at the hospital for the past 18 months as the Environmental Sustainability Lead for his department.

“Operating theatres are waste-intensive, producing almost a third of total hospital waste,” Dr Pachchigar said. “Of this surgical waste, 25 per cent can be attributed to anaesthesia.”

Starting with the issue of single-use products, Dr Pachchigar successfully reduced the number of single-use anaesthesia drug trays in theatres and, in August, welcomed the introduction of reusable anaesthesia drug trays.

“We went from using 7.22 trays for every 10 patients in 2020 to using 4.8 trays for every patient in 2021. That was a 34 per cent reduction in the number of trays used.”

Dr Pachchigar said the reusable drug trays were thermally disinfected by the Central Sterile Supply Department according to strict infection control protocols.

With infection prevention their No.1 priority, multiple hospital teams came together to brainstorm solutions that would reduce the carbon footprint of the operating theatres. Solutions were identified by infection prevention, supply chain services, surgical, sterilisation and anaesthesia staff.

“The safe use of reusable equipment reduces waste and saves cost,” Dr Pachchigar said. “We have implemented several creative ways to educate staff on the complexities of recycling and infection control.”

Dr Pachchigar is working with other departments to introduce recycling across the hospital.

“Theatre is a great place to start and trial projects because it is a contained environment where we can iron out any issues before rolling out to the entire hospital,” he said.

Other initiatives trialled in the anaesthesia department include:

  • Using fewer “blueys”, which is a covering made of two plastic layers and an absorbent cotton layer.
  • Saving the sealed packets of sterile paper towels that come with surgical gown packs.
  • Recycling metal products (and donating to the refunds to the Ipswich Hospital Foundation).
  • Switching plastic denture cups to ones made from biodegradable sugarcane.

West Moreton Health Chief Executive Hannah Bloch welcomed the sustainable approach and said it was a great example of how a staff member’s passion for a cause could benefit the entire health service.

“Dr Pachchigar leads by example and his passion is evident,” Ms Bloch said. “The systems he has put in place in the anaesthesia department will be a great foundation on which our health service can build its green credentials.”

Ms Bloch said National Anaesthesia Day on 17 October was a great opportunity to recognise the work of Dr Pachchigar and his colleagues.