Greening the operating room


The Scarborough Hospital is being lauded as a leader in demonstrating a serious commitment to going green and using reusable textiles in the operating room.

TSH was one of five hospitals in Ontario recently awarded a Booth Centennial Green Award for its increased use of reusable OR products and willingness to participate in innovative green OR solutions.

“We are striving to find the right balance between reusable and disposable products, and we have introduced textile OR gowns to reduce waste,” explains Nurallah Rahim, Patient Care Director, Surgical Services, Ortho & Rehab at TSH. “When we became aware of just how much garbage the OR produces, we took a serious look at how to reduce waste and become more environmentally conscious.”

The first step was to introduce reusable textile surgical gowns that provide less static and less strike-through of fluids. Newer textile weaves and blends now available are far more efficient barriers to fluids than the old cotton and linen gowns of decades ago.

“Disposable paper gowns were introduced several years ago to replace cotton and linen, but it’s almost a 360 degree turn back to textile,” Nurallah explains. “The modern textiles are far more efficient, though, and will help us reduce what we send to the landfills.”

The cost of textile gowns is comparable to disposable paper gowns, and once you take into consideration a cost analysis of how much TSH will save in garbage removal/disposal, the scales tip even further in favour of reusable textiles.

“As we move more towards endoscopic surgeries, where there is less blood and fluids, textile gowns will become increasingly cost-effective,” Nurallah explains. “While surgeons may need to wear a disposable gown as they’re right next to the patient, a scrub nurse can wear a textile gown. The used gowns are cleaned and sterilized and put back into the system, saving considerable waste.”

Nurallah continues to look for new ways to make TSH’s surgical suites more environmentally conscious. One product he’s considering is called Complete Delivery System (CDS), where a hybrid of reusable and disposable supplies are packaged in a customized box that includes prep supplies, reusable and disposable drapes and gowns, patient positioning products, dressing supplies, procedural specific disposables, traditional sterile procedural trays and clean-up kits.

“A complete kit arrives in a box for each specific procedure, and at the end of an operation, the reusable products go back into the box to be returned for cleaning and sterilizing,” he explains. “This reduces our inventory costs and the amount of garbage that ends up in the landfill.

“Being recognized by Booth Centennial makes us feel proud that we’re environmentally conscious and that TSH – one of the largest community hospitals in the GTA – is moving in the right direction,” Nurallah adds. “This is a huge step forward, another recognition that TSH is a leader in integrity and accountability.”