Doctor dressed in scrubs holding paracetamol

Dr Johnny Huang's initiative is win-win-win.

Paracetamol initiative helps patients and the environment

Jul 08, 2024

Port Macquarie Base Hospital (PMBH) in partnership with the MNCLHD Sustainability Team has found an innovative solution to a global shortage of intravenous (IV) paracetamol, leading to significant cost savings and environmental benefits.

Previously, IV paracetamol was the go-to pain relief in PMBH Operating Theatres as part of multimodal analgesia. However, due to the scarcity of raw materials needed for IV paracetamol, the Anaesthetics Department at PMBH began exploring alternatives.

Starting December 4, 2023, the Day Procedure Unit (DPU) staff were instructed to administer oral paracetamol pre-operatively to all elective surgery patients, barring any contraindications and excluding those undergoing endoscopies and bronchoscopies. Multiple trials have shown that pre-operative oral paracetamol offers similar post-operative pain relief to intra-operative IV paracetamol.

An audit compared the usage, costs, and environmental impact of IV versus oral paracetamol before and after this change. The results were striking:

  • Cost Savings: A 94.45% reduction in the cost of paracetamol was observed, amounting to $166.85 saved over two months. Oral paracetamol is 31 times cheaper than IV paracetamol.
  • Environmental Impact: There was an estimated 88% reduction in CO2 emissions, equivalent to 25.26 kg, due to the lower energy requirements for producing and disposing of oral paracetamol packaging compared to the bulky IV vials.

Projected over a year, this change could save PMBH approximately $3593.85 and reduce CO2 emissions by 575.56 kg. These savings allow the hospital to reallocate funds to other crucial areas of patient care while also benefiting the environment.

This initiative showcases how necessity can drive positive changes in healthcare practices, benefiting both the hospital’s budget and the planet.

Acknowledgements to the MNCLHD Sustainability Team and Committee in supporting this initiative. 

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