WA News Letters Declare War on Waste
Declare War on Waste
Written by Dr Belinda McManus
Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dear Editor,

On the subject of waste in the health system I think there is one area that is being overlooked and yet would account for a great deal of cost, not to mention environmental pollution.

I am speaking from my experience working as a GP anaesthetist in Perth's hospitals since 1991. Thus Armadale-Kelmscott, Peel, Rockingham, Swan, Bentley, Kalamunda and Osborne Park.

There is an increasingly ENORMOUS amount of non-biodegradable waste collected from every operating theatre on a daily basis. Just think for a moment of how many operating theatres there are across the state working each day!

From my observations:

1. Single use tourniquets for each patient.

2. Kimberley Clark paper/plastic mix drapes freshly opened for each operation. So many go unused and are immediately discarded because there are often far too many in the pack for the requirements of the operation. (The paper is probably sourced from the Amazon rainforest).

3. Cotton Hucks towels thrown out not having been used but no longer sterile.

4. Single use scissors.

5. Single use disposable plastic slide sheets for transferring patients on and off the operating table.

6. Disposable instruments.

7. Plastic disposable Guedel Oral Airways with a, wait for it, USE BY DATE. (The government accreditors must love that one! Keeps the taxpayer-funded accreditors employed, I suppose.)

These are just some of the things but the list and the volume of waste is much greater. I do think an audit of this waste across all hospitals would be extremely worthwhile.

One has to wonder whether Infection Control have shares in the corporations that produce all this costly waste!

Dr Belinda McManus, GP

ED: Dr McManus emailed this letter to the Minister for Health Roger Cook and received a reply from the Director of the Environmental Health Directorate. We publish the response here.


Dear Dr McManus,

Thank you for your email correspondence dated 10 May 2017 to Hon Roger Cook. The Minister has asked that I respond to you on his behalf. Non-biodegradable waste is an issue of concern to Department of Health and in particular, by the respective hospitals themselves. The costs of handling and disposal of such waste has been the subject of reviews by the individual hospitals.

The hospitals currently have contracts in place to recycle specific products (particularly with items used in operating theatres) and are implementing recycling programs in co-operation with their waste contractors to reduce the amount of waste that is being disposed.

For example, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital recycles bed screen and curtains, polypropylene wash bowls (PP) and oxygen masks (PVC), IV bags (PVC) (but not tubing) providing they were not contaminated with biohazard material. Hospitals are also looking at practices to reduce waste being generated and new technologies that enable a reduction in waste being disposed.

The matters you have raise will be forwarded to our Sustainable Health Review for consideration.

Jim Dodds, Director, Environmental Health Directorate