Sustainable healthcare case study: Collaborating for sustainable and climate resilient healthcare
Tuesday 16 May 2023
The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service (SCHHS) is the main provider of public health and hospital services for a population of about 460,000 people in the Sunshine Coast and Gympie regions in Queensland.
SCHHS was invited to participate in a pilot project with Griffith University and GGHH Pacific called Facilitating Health System Transitions - Climate Resilient and Sustainable Healthcare. This project was conducted under a collaborative research agreement with Griffith University’s Climate Action program. GGHH Pacific provided valuable guidance to the project as a partner in the research agreement.
SCHHS launched an Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2021-2024. Understanding current staff attitudes, knowledge and practices is central to achieving the directions identified within The Strategy. However, no tools were available to gauge staff attitudes, knowledge and practice. This pilot project aimed to address the gap in understanding, provide a baseline of current attitudes and practices, identify areas for intervention, and provide a benchmark for measuring the effectiveness of interventions over time.
- Contribute to the emerging evidence base about how health services and systems can transition to low carbon, climate resilient services, while continuing to provide high quality, equitable health care to communities
Two studies were undertaken:
- Study 1 investigated current attitudes, knowledge and practices regarding environmentally sustainable and climate resilient health care through a staff survey
- Study 2 developed and evaluated an environmental sustainability checklist for SCHHS staff to apply within their work units and teams
Study 1. Staff survey
The survey questionnaire was developed by the collaborative project team, adapting questions from previous similar surveys. Feedback from informal pilot testing was integrated to ensure the survey was tailored to SCHHS and could be completed in 10-20 minutes. A link to the survey was shared via multiple communication channels, including staff newsletters, magazines, posters, presentations and more.
Responses indicated staff across all disciplines and work units agree that improving environmental sustainability practices is important, and that the healthcare system should take immediate climate action. Responses also indicated different levels of awareness of the existing SCHHS initiatives or climate risk planning, with only a quarter reporting having seen the SCHHS Environmental Sustainability Strategy. Practices and opportunities also varied across different HHS geographical sites, e.g. specialised recycling is not currently available at all sites.
Many respondents expressed that they were very positive about the research, looked forward to learning the outcomes, and were appreciative of the opportunity to participate. Staff reported they would like more information, education and employer support for climate action in the workplace.
Study 2. Environmental sustainability checklist
An Environmental Sustainability Checklist tool was developed by the collaborative project team to assist SCHHS staff to identify unit-based sustainability initiatives and promote sustainable practices.
The tool was modelled on a similar instrument developed by clinicians from two other GGHH member organisations, South Metropolitan Health Service (WA Health) and South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (NSW Health), framed around the ten GGHH agenda goals and evaluated through a series of focus groups with staff across the SCHHS facilities.
The checklist was circulated to the SCHHS Environmental Sustainability Committee members for feedback and then piloted by environmental sustainability champions across the SCHHS. Staff completed the checklist in their work areas and returned them to the generic email account identified on the checklist. To understand staff perspectives and experiences of using the checklist, 4 focus groups were held with 13 participants from different facilities. The focus group interviews were transcribed and analysed thematically for benefits and challenges.
The checklist has been updated to Version 2, circulated to the Environmental Sustainability Committee members, and is now available on the SCHHS Intranet and Environmental Sustainability Teams site. New graduates and students are encouraged to use the checklist tool to identify sustainability focussed projects as part of their ongoing learning and professional development.
This full case study is available to GGHH members via GGHH Connect.