Having won recognition for its sustainability strategy last year, Australia’s largest private hospitals operator is doubling down on its efforts to reduce its environmental footprint.
Ramsay Health Care has announced plans to remove 50 million single-use items by the end of 2022 – twice the number it managed in the previous 18-month period.
“We have seen what a big difference some small changes can make to the environment and the future of our planet,” the global group’s Australian CEO Carmel Monaghan said.
The move is part of the ‘Ramsay Cares’ strategy, for which it won the Outstanding Organisation category at the 2021 HESTA Nursing and Midwifery Awards.
A central goal is swapping out single-use plastic items – such as medicine cups, anaesthetic and injection trays – for environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Ramsay’s National Environment Manager Sue Panuccio said concerns from staff and patients about plastics use had led to the company switching to reusable water bottles, saving an estimated nine million additional items from landfill.
She also cited the National Waste Report 2020, which revealed only 13 percent of plastic used in Australia is recycled – the rest ends up in landfill or oceans and waterways.
“Reducing waste, particularly single-use plastics, is an initiative that our people have been very passionate about,” Ms Panuccio said.
“The first items to go were plastic plates, cutlery and straws, and thanks to suggestions from our people we are now looking at additional plastic items to replace with sustainable alternatives.
“With the support of our people and our patients I think we’re in a good position to be able to reach our target of keeping 50 million single-use plastic items out of landfill by December.”
Other sustainability initiatives include switching to green energy across Ramsay’s 72 facilities nationwide.
Sydney’s Westmead Private Hospital and Sunshine Coast’s Nambour Selangor Private Hospital are among those to recently install solar panels to reduce carbon emissions.
Westmead has a new 300-kilowatt (kW) rooftop system, with an additional 227 kW system to be added in March – combined they are expected to save almost 10,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over their lifespan.
“Saving almost 10,000 tonnes of carbon emissions is the equivalent of taking 183 cars off the road – that’s a lot of cars,” CEO Mike Flatley said.
“Installing solar panels is great for the environment and creating a more sustainable hospital for the future.
“Proudly, we were able to carry out the installation of the first system with no disruptions to our usual services, and we expect to do the same with the second system when it is installed in March.”
Westmead Private had removed more than 500,000 plastic bottles from its landfill output since March 2021, while it had earlier upgraded to energy-efficient lighting throughout the 192-bed hospital.
Its desire to cut waste extended to the Maternity Unit’s festive celebrations, as staff created recycled Christmas decorations such as bottle-cap wreaths and medication pamphlet snowflakes from items that would previously have been thrown out.
Nambour Selangor Private Hospital, a 76-bed facility, has introduced a 193 kW solar-panel system that is expected to save 4,200 tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifespan.
It has also kept nearly 200,000 single-use plastic items out of landfill since March 2021, and this year plans to upgrade to energy-efficient LED lights.
“We’re excited to be moving forward with our commitment to addressing climate change through meaningful sustainability initiatives,” CEO Justin Greenwell said.
“We live in the Sunshine State so it makes sense to use our natural resources to assist in powering our hospital, to create a more sustainable future for generations to come.
“And as planned, the installation was seamless, our patients likely would not have even noticed the work going on above them.”