Sustainability in medical care

The USZ takes a holistic approach to health. Our medical care and the company as a whole have an impact on the health of the planet, for example through emissions, resource consumption or social factors. Ultimately, however, our patients also benefit from a healthy environment. The fact that the USZ is committed to the health of the planet therefore makes double sense.

The path to climate-neutral anesthesia

Approximately 30,000 anesthesias are performed at the USZ every year. A variety of different procedures are offered and different anesthetics are used. Inhaled anesthetic gases such as desflurane, isoflurane and sevoflurane are powerful greenhouse gases and therefore extremely harmful to the environment. Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a directive in place in anesthesiology that limits the use of climate-damaging anesthetic gases.

Desflurane, for example, is 2540 times, isoflurane 510 times and sevoflurane even 130 times more climate-active thanCO2. A more concrete comparison: the environmental impact caused by a seven-hour anesthesia with desflurane is roughly equivalent to a 15,000-kilometer drive in a gasoline-powered car. In addition to desflurane, the most climate-damaging anesthetic gas, the second most harmful, isoflurane, was also banned from the operating theaters at the USZ before 2022. For example, sevoflurane is currently the only climate-active anesthetic gas used in human medicine at the USZ. In most operations, anesthetic gases can be replaced by intravenous anesthetics such as propofol, which are less harmful to the environment. The USZ has made intravenous anesthesia the standard form of anesthesia. There are certain clearly defined medical indications for which inhaled anesthesia with sevoflurane is still necessary and sensible – for example after a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit and long-term sedation with propofol. Until now, the gases have been removed using the so-called anesthetic gas transport system. Carbon-based filters are one way of binding these gases and thus recycling them. Tests are already planned.

Reusable instead of disposable products

In the reprocessing unit for medical devices (AEMP) in Schlieren, the USZ cleans, disinfects and sterilizes 3.6 million medical instruments every year – from surgical clamps and forceps to endoscopes. Wherever sensible and possible, more ecological reusable products are preferred to disposable products. Through maintenance, functional tests and quality controls, the medical devices can be maintained in good quality for a long time. Reusable products require fewer valuable raw materials and consume less energy over their entire life cycle than disposable products. They are also less affected by supply bottlenecks caused by external suppliers or global supply routes. The practical handling of high-quality reusable instruments is often better than that of cheap disposable products. The AEMP has been awarded the “ISO 13485 Medical Devices Quality Management System” certificate

Valuable products from social support programs

After each birth, parents receive a practical changing mat as a gift from the maternity clinic. This give-away creates a link to the birth experience and is produced in the workshops of the Marktlücke social support program. The program supports unemployed women who are registered with social welfare in the process of their social integration and/or gives them the opportunity to increase their employability and make the transition to working life. The materials are produced locally; the cord, for example, is handmade in Switzerland’s oldest rope factory.

Contact on the topic of sustainability in medical care

Stephan Seiler

Head Corporate Responsibility

Tel. +41 43 253 07 96