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RNSH anaesthetic department reducing carbon footprint

Anaesthetic Advanced Trainee Dr Max Benness is educating and empowering his colleagues to reduce their environmental impact.

Joining the anaesthetic department three years ago, Max saw an opportunity as an anaesthetist to significantly minimise the team’s carbon footprint through the conduct of their practice. 

“A unique part of our practice is the use of anaesthetic gases which have been shown to comprise approximately five per cent of healthcare emissions in similar settings to Australian public hospitals,” he said. 

“Volatile anaesthetic agents are known to contribute to global warming to a greater extent than carbon dioxide.”

This led Max to undertake an audit of the local volatile usage in the department to quantify both the comparative carbon cost (in equivalent tonnes of CO2) and dollar cost of the most commonly used volatile anaesthetic agents (Sevoflurane and Desflurane).

This audit data highlighted a potential area for significant reduction in our department’s carbon footprint by minimising Desflurane use and limiting fresh gas flows
Dr Max Benness, Anaesthetic Advanced Trainee

“This would also see a reduction in the department’s overheads.”

Max has been running an educational campaign in the department to promote practice change to reduce the use of these agents. This has involved producing posters to reinforce the audit findings and inform clinicians in the department about the proposed interventions, as well as discussions at executive meetings. 

Max’s hard work is paying off with the department reducing the use of the most costly and environmentally damaging agent by over 50 per cent this year. This has come with a direct cost reduction of over $47,000 and CO2 reduction equivalent of almost 400 tonnes. 

“We are now seeing a cultural shift and our department is ready and eager to change – it is just the beginning for us,” he said. 

“I encourage other departments across our local health district to consider what they could be doing in their own practices to reduce their footprint.”

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