Environment the big winner in national decision by St John of God Health Care

22 Mar 2024

By The Record

SJGHC COO Ben Edwards Anaesthetist Alex Swann and SJGHC CPO Carla Bonev. Photo: Supplied.

St John of God Health Care is the first Australian private health care organisation to stop purchasing Desflurane across its network of 17 hospitals to help reduce the national organisation’s carbon footprint.

Desflurane is a commonly used anaesthetic agent but it is unfortunately one of the most harmful anaesthetics to the environment.

It has 2,540 times more global warming impact than an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide.

St John of God Health Care has partnered with its anaesthetists to identify this impact and enable all specialists to switch to alternative agents which have significantly less impacts on the environment.

This change has already occurred in the UK NHS, and WA public health without impact on patient care.

St John of God Health Care Chief People Officer Carla Bonev said this decision would go towards the organisation’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a key step in meeting a minimum 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

“As a Catholic health care organisation, we take stewardship of our resources, including the environment, seriously, that is why we have taken the step to support our specialists and improve our sustainability by stopping the purchase and use of this agent in our hospitals,” she said.

“We expect this will decrease our carbon dioxide emissions by 260 tonnes a year, while also providing some financial savings.”

St John of God Health Care Chief Operating Officer Ben Edwards said while most anaesthetists had reduced their use of desflurane, the growing awareness of the environmental impacts of desflurane, and the safety of the alternatives made a ban an appropriate decision, to support the environment.

“We want to support the health and wellbeing of our communities, not only when they are seeking our care and services but in ensuring that we are doing everything we can to minimise our impact on the environment,” he said.

“Partnering with our anaesthetists to identify and make this critical change is a great outcome for our hospitals and our communities.

“St John of God Midland Public and Private Hospitals have been desflurane free for a number of years and we are proud that all of our hospitals will now follow suit.”

Specialist Anaesthetist Dr Christopher Mitchell said individual clinicians and health care operators had a responsibility to provide safe care for their patients and the wider community, and safe and effective alternatives meant that this agent did not need to be used.

“Many hospitals across the world have stopped using Desflurane and there have been no reports of patients having decreased quality of care, of critical incidents or extended operation times,” he said.

“I am pleased that St John of God Health Care has supported all specialists to reduce their environmental impact through stopping the purchase and use of the drug in their hospitals.”

Desflurane will be banned for purchase from March 2024 within St John of God Health Care hospitals and, to ensure the organisation does not contribute to further waste, all existing stock will be used, which is expected to take up between three and six months.