Mackay Base Hospital’s Anaesthetic Department is tackling climate change one step at a time – and they are challenging their colleagues nationally to do the same.
The theme of this year’s annual anaesthetic conference at Airlie Beach from 3 -5 June has the theme “Adapting to a changing world”.
Around 130 delegates from Australia and New Zealand have registered for the conference which will also offer professional development and networking opportunities.
Senior Staff Specialist Anaesthetist Dr Suresh Singaravelu said the joint meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetic Environmental Sustainability Network and the Mackay Anaesthetic Community would have a strong focus on sustainability.
Dr Singaravelu said the Mackay Anaesthetic Community was very concerned about climate change.
“We know that healthcare contributes a large amount of waste going into landfill, so we are making delegates aware of the challenges we face, particularly using disposable items which will not degrade for many years.”
He said the conference was an opportunity to raise awareness of waste in healthcare and share ideas to reduce the environmental footprint of medicine.
One simple example that Mackay Hospital and Health Service has taken is no longer using the anaesthetic gas Desflurane.
Desflurane is a common anaesthetic agent predominantly used when conducting general anaesthetic, but also is one of the most harmful to the planet.
It has 20 times the environmental impact of other less harmful greenhouse gases and using a bottle has the same global warming effect as burning 440kg of coal.
“Desflurane stays in the atmosphere for 50 to 60 years so we have removed it from our clinical practice. There are other anaesthetic agents which are equally as efficacious as Desflurane but with significantly less environmental harm.
“The Mackay Anaesthetic Department has a strong passion to do all we can to make this world a better place for future generations. We have the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, on our doorstep. It is vital we make changes now, no matter how small, so we can help benefit future generations.”
Dr Singaravelu will be encouraging other clinicians at the conference to make the similar changes.
“The College’s sustainability network has started to give guidance on how we can practically make small changes that can have a big impact on the future.”
While there have been opportunities to recycle glass and plastic from medication and single-use products from the operating theatre, Mackay has been disadvantaged by geographical distance.
“There are companies which recycle theatre waste and make it into different products, even roads, but the challenge for regional Australia is transporting these recycled products to metropolitan area where the re- processing occurs. So, we are looking at alternative ways to help reduce our environmental footprint.”
Dr Singaravelu said delegates were looking forward to gathering in a beautiful part of the world to share their clinical expertise.
“Bringing everyone together will help us work together and share ideas. As healthcare professionals, we are always looking to improve our clinical practice and attending conferences such as this one is an excellent opportunity to learn from each other to do just that.
“Clinicians in smaller regional areas always enjoy coming together and building professional relationships in a social setting. Workplaces can be stressful, so it is always good to get together, build a network and use that network later if we need a second opinion or want to talk through a case with someone.”
It will not all be hard work, there are plenty of games such as beach volleyball as well as a cruise through the beautiful Whitsunday Islands.
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