Hospitals, supposedly one of the cleanest establishments, are also one of the major waste-producing facilities there are. They generate approximately 7, 000 tons of waste (i.e., infectious, hazardous, and solid wastes) per day. In addition, medical equipment’s energy usage account for one-fifth to one-quarter in a given facility. Such equipment may contain harmful substances such as cancer-causing carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and bio accumulative toxins (i.e., substances that do not degrade easily in the environment and which build up inside humans and other species, eventually posing long-term threat to everything it comes contact with).
So how come the world is letting the people who are supposedly responsible for the world’s health actually contribute to its deterioration? When you think about it, it’s kind of like the beauty industry where they sell you all these “beauty-enhancing” products that make you look pretty but actually destroy your skin in the process. They do everything for their primary cause’s sake without thinking about the effects these may have in the long run. I guess, it’s about time to push for social responsibility which fortunately, some health care companies are getting the hang of.
REUSED MEDICAL EQUIPMENT, ANYONE?
You’ve probably heard of the “reuse, reduce, recycle” campaign a gazillion times and most often, it involves the issue of waste management. But here’s an interesting fact: refurbishing medical equipment. What’s it all about, you ask?
Well, as in any factory, manufacturing medical equipment employ a great amount of energy consumption, waste production, and repetitive hazardous process (depending on the materials used). With refurbishing pre-owned medical equipment, they utilize about 90% of the original material. Also, the material provision phase is completely cut out. This means, the process takes fewer steps resulting to less toxic emissions.
Reprocessing breathes a second life to these otherwise disposed medical equipment by using what’s still valuable and good and scrapping the rest. And what’s making hospitals happier about it is that it cuts back their expenses to about 50% (as compared to purchasing brand new equipment) but delivers the same efficiency with optimum patient care.
Now you might be thinking, “Is this safe and hygienic?” Perhaps a mental picture of a doctor using the same surgical gloves and equipment on a second patient comes to mind.
Refurbishing medical equipment such as “single-use device” (SUD) is already spreading out in the medical industry. These SUDs, which are originally intended for single use or one patient only, are being refurbished to be patient-ready, employing additional processing and manufacturing to enable additional use on a patient. These do not go without regulation from authority such as the Food and Drug Administration which ensures the safety and efficiency of such device of sophistication. Reprocessing requires the same standards of safety and effectiveness as would manufacturing new equipment.
A CLOSER LOOK
Take Siemens , an integrated technology company with a green thumb, for example. It currently takes part of this operation with its Refurbished Systems which incorporated the standards of COCIR (European Coordination Committee of the European Radiological, Electromedical and Healthcare IT Industry), a committee that pushes for a “harmonized international standards and regulatory control with respect to the quality and effectiveness of medical devices”. In this way, utmost quality is ensured. But Siemens goes the extra mile on this green project by not only taking care of things at their end but also contributing to Mother Nature. You see, for every refurbished equipment purchased from them, they build a tree on certain dedicated reforestation areas, commissioning World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to take on the reforestation efforts. Medical facilities that purchase from them are endorsed as part of their green project. So how does this exactly help the environment?
It has been reported that Siemens produced 1,745 refurbished systems in 2008-2009 fiscal year. This amounted to nearly 20,000 tons of CO2 that were indirectly saved in the process. If that doesn’t make much sense to you then think of this: the amount of savings is equal to CO2 storage of about 32 hectares of rainforest OR approximately 5,700 households’ electrical power consumption. That’s HUGE and that’s just one company. Imagine the effects a thousand companies would make to sustain our environment!
Here in Asia, there are companies that have been green even before it was “trendy” to be green. Singapore-based medical and pharmaceutical equipment manufacturer Esco Global is one of those companies. They were the first one to use the energy efficient motor systems in their laminar flow products. The company was established in 1978 for the production of clean air products for the microchip industry and have integrated green into their designs ever since.
Luckily, such is the time when more medical facilities are made aware of the harmful impact they make on the environment, especially on the people living nearby. This causes them to take responsibility for their actions and turn to less drastic means, health-and-nature-wise. For example, reducing their use of toxic materials (e.g., mercury, cleaning materials, pesticides, flame retardants, etc.) is one step towards sustaining the environment.
Now, there is no argument that health care facilities are still business-oriented no matter how dedicated they are to their health care programs. Fortunately, this drives them to look for incentives economically and non-economically. Refurbishing medical equipment happens to be just the solution they need with its cost-cutting expenses and environment-friendly approach.
The next time you go to the hospital for your regular check-up, watch out for green thumbs. They’re quite contagious.