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Celebrating Earth Day Every Day

Friday, Apr 20, 2018
Deanna Blanchard, MD

Doylestown Health is committed to keeping our community healthy, and that includes taking care of the environment we live in. Doylestown Hospital continues to embrace the "green" movement to decrease our impact on our local environment and simply do the right thing.

Doylestown Health surgeon Deanna Blanchard, MD has always been interested in protecting the environment. She grew up in Maine, where "everybody is green," she says. While studying undergrad at Providence College in Rhode Island, Dr. Blanchard minored in Environmental Studies. For her senior project she started a campaign to encourage people to walk to campus instead of drive and also promoted the use of public transportation around the city.

In 2015, inspired by the work of Carolinas HealthCare surgeon Todd Heniford, MD, Dr. Blanchard undertook a mission to help "green the OR (operating room)" at Doylestown Hospital. She educated the staff on what exactly is recyclable and made sure recycling bins were readily available in heavily used areas. These days, the recycling bins fill up more quickly than the garbage bins.

Dr. Blanchard started collecting blue wrap (the soft plastic/paper drapes used to wrap sterile surgical instruments). The wraps are clean and do not come in contact with patients. In the past, the wraps were thrown away. Dr. Blanchard began saving them and finding other uses for them. Her office was overflowing with the wraps, so she worked with Environmental Services to find a company that now collects hundreds of the hospital's wraps for recycling/repurposing.

A few years ago, Dr. Blanchard started collecting different OR materials that were expired or no longer suitable for patient care, but were perfectly usable in other settings. She fills her car with boxes of the clean materials and takes them to the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences in Lancaster, which is more than happy to use the items for teaching purposes.

A big change came with what's known as red bag waste, or biohazardous waste. Red bag waste must be treated differently from other trash. Environmental Services must use designated, more expensive bags and a special machine to sterilize the red bag waste on-site before it can be disposed. The disposal process is costly and uses additional water and energy. The issue was that many people were unnecessarily putting regular garbage in these red bags. Through education and teamwork, the amount of red bag waste has been reduced by 90%.

The effort started in the OR and extended throughout the hospital. In 2015, about 231,000 pounds of red bag waste went through the extra processing, compared to just 24,499 pounds in 2017, saving water, energy and cost. No longer needed, many of the old red bag bins were sanitized and donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Dr. Blanchard is an active member of the Green Team working to reduce, reuse and recycle. The Green Team encouraged Food Services to switch from plastic salad containers to paper in the cafeteria. Styrofoam cups in the snack bar and cafeteria have been replaced with paper. The team helped get two water dispensers installed, encouraging people to fill up with reusable bottles.

For Dr. Blanchard, it's about more than just being green.

"The bigger passion for me is quality and process improvement," says Dr. Blanchard, who is studying for her master's degree in Healthcare Quality and Safety.

Dr. Blanchard has taken what she's learned from other organizations and put that to use at Doylestown Hospital. She stays current on green trends by reading and researching best practices. And she practices what she preaches at home, where she composts and recycles as much as possible.

"The goal is for everybody to do this at home," she notes. "It's easy to make a small impact."

Small impacts that add up to big change.

About Doylestown Health

Doylestown Health is a comprehensive system of inpatient, outpatient and community services connected to meet the health and wellness needs of all members of the community. Our independent and nonprofit system is dedicated to healthcare excellence from childbirth to end-of-life care.

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