In celebration of Earth Day, we’ll explore how The University of Vermont Medical Center prevents tons (literally!) of trash from going to the landfill through its single-use medical device reprocessing program.
Use, reprocess, repurchase
Single-use device (SUD) reprocessing makes it possible for healthcare providers to reuse certain types of medical equipment, thereby reducing the amount of waste the institution produces.
It works like this: instead of throwing away devices like staplers and cauterizers after use, the hospital saves them. Next, an approved vendor collects them for sterilization, remanufacturing and testing, according to FDA standards. Finally, the hospital buys back the reprocessed items at a reduced cost.
A greener OR, a greener community
For Monique “Mo” Citro, OR communications specialist, encouraging the operating room (OR) to adopt a SUD reprocessing program wasn’t just about rounding out her already impressive recycling resume; it was about positively impacting her community.
“It’s imperative that we avoid putting things in a landfill because of the sheer volume of waste the OR produces per year,” says Mo. “It’s about not burdening our community with trash. We ask ourselves, ‘What can we do to make sure our efforts to treat patients don’t impact their resources?’ That’s an institution that’s being truly sustainable.”
So far, their waste reduction efforts have paid off: in 2015, the UVM Medical Center diverted 15,327 pounds (or 7.6 tons) of single-use medical devices from entering the landfill.
Currently, the OR at the UVM Medical Center reprocesses 44 devices with plans of expanding in the future.
Saving greens, by going green
Not only does reprocessing and device buyback prevent unnecessary waste; it also saves money. In 2015, the hospital saved over $1 million by purchasing reprocessed devices.
Though the OR has collected thousands of pounds of devices for reprocessing since 2010, it wasn’t until 2015 that they began purchasing these items back at a reduced cost.
According to PeriOperative Director Brooke Stahle, who helped lead reprocessing efforts in the OR, clinical staff were initially reluctant to use these devices. With patient safety their top priority, they worried about the product quality.
However, says Brooke, “They actually do more rigorous testing on reprocessed items than on new ones.”
Join us on our sustainability journey
You, too, can divert waste from the landfill and make your community a little greener. Mo suggests, “Educate yourself, especially about the new Vermont laws on recycling and composting.”
She adds, “If everyone does a little bit more like, like picking up trash or throwing a can in the recycling bin, we can make a big difference.”
Danielle Calaway is a Staff Assistant in Facilities Management and a member of the University of Vermont Medical Center Green Team.