The Environment May Have Recognized You but You Didn’t Recognize It
By Michael G. Galvez, MD
We must consider the environment in our field of hand and upper extremity. Why? Believing that the United States has unlimited resources is a contributing factor to why our healthcare system is broken. A broken healthcare system that prioritizes patients with health insurance results in delayed care for many patients. We all know that delayed care results in poor functional outcomes in hand surgery. We care about that, so why not also care about the environment that provides the elements to create our operating room equipment and the natural resources that power our overhead lights? We do not have unlimited resources because there is only so much the environment can provide. At the end of the day any resource that comes from our environment results in direct and indirect costs that are convoluted and eventually paid by our healthcare system and patients.
If we consider and respect our environment, then this results in acknowledging the fact that resources (from our environment) are limited. When we consider that resources are limited, then we can make conscious efforts to not over order operating equipment that may never be utilized. Do you really use everything in your sterile hand pack that is opened before surgery? What is being truly used and what is being discarded? Most operating rooms will discard all of this and it is eventually incinerated. If we are discarding OR equipment, should we be saving this resource and sending it abroad to the less fortunate? Every hospital has unused equipment that a surgeon ordered and was underutilized. Any discarded equipment will typically result in the equipment being in an “elephant graveyard” with other unused equipment. Over time, the hospital will need hallway space and this equipment will be discarded. Should we be proponents to get this equipment to other countries with need? Yes. Should we avoid buying equipment that we will only use once every two years? Yes. We as hand surgeons are well respected because we take care of patients’ hands. These hands are used to interface with our world and environment. Let’s set an example and be considerate for the many generations of hand surgeons (and their families) to come.