June 16th, 2024

Doctors recommend ways to combat waste, pollutants in health-care

By Camille Bains, The Canadian Press on May 17, 2024.

Health-care professionals are joining forcesto cut down on waste including single-use plastics, surgical gloves and syringes where possible. Many have provided recommendations to the advocacy group Choosing Wisely Canada. Here’s a look at howclinicians can change their practice while caring for patients and the planet.

WHAT CAN DOCTORS DO?

Doctors are being urged not to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections because there’s no evidence to suggest they work for that purpose. Drug manufacturing involves chemicals and energy, and unused medications are often thrown in the toilet and end up in rivers, lakes and groundwater instead of being returned to a pharmacy for disposal.

Choosing Wisely Canada also suggests ordering lab tests as needed instead of scheduling them routinely to save on single-use tubes, syringes and surgical gloves, and limit use of energy-intensive equipment. The organization says more than 1.2 million lab tests are done every day in Canada.

Other measures call on doctors to book virtual appointments whenever possible and prescribe alternatives to metered-dose inhalers, which spew a greenhouse gas called hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) into the atmosphere.

Another recommendation calls on staff in intensive care units to not use gloves when proper handwashing is sufficient.

HOW CAN HOSPITALS CUT EMISSIONS?

Some hospitals are offering more plant-based meals because raising animals for food, particularly cattle, uses a lot of land and has a large carbon footprint.

A “planetary health” food program at Richmond General Hospital offers plant-based meals and “climate-conscious proteins” including steelhead trout and turkey.

Dr. Annie Lalande, who is doing a PhD in environment and sustainability at the University of British Columbia whilecompleting her residency in surgery, says the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions involved in food production.

Meals at a similar six-month pilot that recently wrapped at Vancouver General Hospital includedcoconut chicken curry, soy-based sloppy joes and a Korean-style gochujang bowl made with beans.

Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2024.

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