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‘Think Green Team’ promotes sustainability to reduce hospital footprint

Written by Jennifer Mackenzie
As hospitals nationwide are looking for innovative ways to lighten their footprints, Onslow Memorial Hospital is making the expression ’Waste not, want not’ a reality.
This June, the first phase of the hospital’s redesigned green initiative went live – and while efforts are surely intended to reduce the hospital’s environmental impact, they will also benefit the bottom line.
The hospital’s ‘Think Green Team’ (listed below) is dedicated to finding “ways to minimize our waste, and better manage our resources,” says Think Green Team chair Andria Davis, Director, Materials Management. And they rolled out a multi-phase approach to several initiatives with June 5 (World Environment Day), as their ‘Go Live’ date.
The first phase is linen utilization, considered a house-wide initiative. “Any hospital department with linens in their area (which is just about everywhere), is involved,” Ms. Davis explains.
The Think Green Team was tasked with evaluating the environmental impact of the hospital’s linen use. “For example,” she says, “if we put three blankets in a patient’s room but only one blanket is used, we still have to launder all three blankets before they can be used again. This increases our environmental footprint as well as our costs. So part of our staff education has been standardizing how we make beds, what types of blankets we offer, and other factors.”
In all these considerations, patient care remains front and center.
“We conducted six weeks of training and computer-based learning to ensure patient comfort remains our top focus while reducing our environmental footprint,” Ms. Davis says.
Phase two of the green initiative, going live later this summer, is the reprocessing of single-use and reusable medical devices.
Reprocessing of noninvasive and invasive devices is a detailed, multistep process to clean and disinfect or sterilize, remanufacture, test, and then package/label the devices following strict Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements and standards. According to the FDA, “When the labeling instructions for reprocessing are completely and correctly followed after each use of the device, reprocessing results in a medical device that can be safely used more than once.”
Examples of reusable medical devises are stethoscopes, surgical forceps, and endoscopes. An example of a single-use medical device would be a vessel-sealing device (such as LigaSure) used in an operating room setting.
The hospital will be sending its reprocessing devices to Stryker Sustainability for the FDA-monitored cleaning and testing, then buy the devices back at a substantial cost savings. Companies that perform reprocessing submit to regulatory oversight from the FDA, so patients are assured of the same, high, clinical quality, whether the device in question is new or reprocessed. What’s more, “reprocessing also significantly reduces the quantity of items in landfills,” Ms. Davis adds, “so it’s a trifecta for the environment, patients and us.”
When the reprocessing phase gets underway, most items will come from the hospital’s operating room. “The O.R. has done an excellent job recycling medical devices for years. Now we are going to turn around and reprocess these items. When we then coordinate our collection efforts of other devices hospital-wide, it will be very simple to begin the reprocessing.” 
Ms. Davis credits the Think Green Team members, the Operating Room Steering Committee, Department of Surgery “and our entire staff and leadership for being so supportive.”
Her passion for the cause is clearly shared by the entire team. “I love seeing the enthusiasm we have here for embracing sustainability,” she adds. “We know we can all make a difference on a local and global level.”
Think Green Team members:
  • Tracy Sobiesienski, Education
  • Crystal Bryan, ICU
  • Greg Springfield, Radiology
  • Gloria Powers, Infection Prevention
  • Danielle Valadez, Infection Prevention
  • Tasha Wells, Telemetry/MedSurg
  • Betram Onyeme, Environmental Services
  • James Riley, Materials Management
  • Pat Stark, Emergency Department
  • Monica Risner, Emergency Department
  • Jessica Collins-Hansley, Patient Advocacy
  • Andria Davis, Materials Management
  • Angela Skinner, Crothall – Linen Vendor