Australian project leads the way in sustainable healthcare


A new project is looking at ways to make the healthcare industry more sustainable.

The Healthcare Carbon Lab at Western Health, led by the University of Melbourne, will study how much energy and waste common medical items create.

Dr Forbes McGain, who runs the project and works in intensive care, says they want to find out if reusable items are better for the environment than throw-away ones.

“It is well-documented Australia’s healthcare system contributes 7% of Australia’s carbon emissions, but what we need is more of the data to be able to understand how we can make better, more sustainable choices while keeping patient care front of mind,” Dr McGain said.

He gave an example: “just one load of a hospital steam steriliser uses as much energy as a day’s total energy use for a four-person Victorian household. And now consider that each steriliser is on all day.”

The lab builds on work already done at Western Health. They’ve started using washable medical gowns instead of throw-away ones.

“We’ve found that in terms of infection-control there is no difference and a somewhat better comfort outcome for reusable polyester gowns,” Dr. McGain said. “We’ve reduced waste going to landfill and also carbon from manufacturing costs of disposable gowns.”

Western Health’s CEO Professor Russell Harrison said this kind of change is important.

“We’ve shown that it is possible to implement sustainable solutions while continuing to deliver quality patient care and comfort for healthcare workers,” he said. “This is a truly exciting opportunity to look at how we can be more sustainable in the healthcare sector.”

Next Up