The important work being done by members of the Vancouver Acute/Vancouver Community Medical Staff Planetary Health Committee was highlighted at a recent Doctors of BC Facility Engagement Initiative peer-to-peer knowledge sharing roundtable. Physicians from across the province gathered virtually to hear about the committee’s work as well as from other medical professionals working to reduce the environmental impacts of health care.
Committee co-chair Dr. Rashmi Chadha gave an impassioned presentation on the need for planetary health committees in all health authorities and explained how the VA/VC committee was formed. She also described the committee’s work to date.
“We need to push for change in all health authorities,” she said before quoting Sir David Attenborough speaking at COP26:
“If working apart we’re a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.”
Dr. Chadha went on to cite a Lancet article co-authored by her committee co-chair Dr. Andrea MacNeill entitled Learning to treat the climate emergency together: social tipping interventions by the health community. She noted the need to shift practices and have keen ambitions to move the health sector towards decarbonization.
The peer-to-peer roundtable also included a presentation by Dr. Ilona Hale from Interior Health who spoke about a guide on planetary health for primary care she is creating with the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice. The guide uses a framework created by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and examines four ways we can reduce our environmental impact in our day-to-day practice: prevention; self-care; low-carbon alternatives; and lean service delivery wherein care systems are streamlined to minimize wasteful activities.
Dr. James Wiedrick from Kootenay Lake Hospital was next up; his focus was on reducing the environmental impact of anesthetic gases in the operating room. His hospital in Nelson has new anesthesia machines that are much more efficient, and the physicians there have also moved away from using nitrous oxide and are working to reduce their use of desflurane in favour of sevoflurane. Over the past four years, desflurane use is down by 71 per cent, with the aim to eliminate it altogether in the coming years.
The session’s final presentation was from Drs. Val Stoynova and Celia Culley who work at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. They spoke on their ongoing project using a quality improvement framework to decrease inhaler-related carbon footprint at Island Health. They are taking a three-pronged approach, addressing policy change, operational change, and an educational campaign.