Hospital gas switch cuts carbon footprint

Western Health, in Melbourne’s western suburbs, has approximately 700 beds and 18 operating rooms. It is a general hospital with a large maternity section.

Western Health is ahead of the pack by committing to reduce the hospital’s greenhouse gas emissions by changing the type of anaesthetic gases used.

Oh No

A variety of different general anaesthetic gases are used in hospitals all over Australia, these are primarily sevoflurane, desflurane with some nitrous oxide (N2O). Through their research, the Anaesthetic Department at Western Health found that the most commonly used anaesthetic gases, desflurane and N2O, have higher potential to contribute to climate change compared with another safe sevoflurane (or Propofol). Their studies also revealed an additional health risk: waste anaesthetic gases can be harmful to staff if not properly exhausted.

As all general anaesthetic gases have similar effects, there was no clinical risk or change in the effectiveness and safety by substituting Propofol for desflurane and N2O.

Oh Yes

Western Health found that by encouraging anaesthetists to switch to administering Propofol they could substantially reduce their emissions and save the hospital money. The majority of anaesthetists have now reduced their desflurane and nitrous oxide use and attempted to use lower flows of gases in general.

With further education, advocacy and changes, the solutions are endless for hospitals to reduce their carbon footprint and ensure that the health of our communities thrive.

The changes made at Western Health have led to saving of approximately USD $22,500 per year!

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For more information about this story please visit the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Website where the original case study is found.

To get involved in Climate and Health, visit the Climate and Health Alliance.

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