A Downy Birch tree was planted in the grounds of University Hospital Waterford (UHW) on Tuesday last (March 30) to mark the hospital’s commitment to creating a better environment within its 33-acre campus at Ardkeen.
The planting ceremony was the brainchild of UHW’s Maternity Services and Green Group, with the Downy Birch selected given its status “as a symbol of birth and renewal in Celtic mythology”.
According to Dr Azy Khalid, UHW’s Green Group representative: “We hope that by the time this tree reaches maturity, we will have transformed this hospital into a carbon-neutral workplace.”
Prior to the tree’s planting, just a short walk from the Emergency Department, Dr Khalid told the Waterford News & Star: “The planting of this tree is not only with a view to creating a more sustainable future here at the hospital and to make UHW greener but also to mark our group’s establishment.”
Regarding the group’s future aims, Dr Khalid referenced the management and segregation of hospital waste and the provision of sufficient bins to ensure to differentiate between recycling, clinical waste, compost and general waste.
According to Paula Curtin, UHW’s Director of Midwifery: “Being more plastic aware is also something we’re going to be concentrating on through this initiative. It’s all part of adopting a greener approach about how we do our work; including the need to print certain things and whether you need to do so or not. And this is a starting point for us in reaching those goals.”
The exactitude required in terms of hygiene is a greater consideration in the hospital workspace than it is in less pressurised environments.
Said Ms Curtin: “It’s something we’d have a heightened level of awareness about anyway, absolutely. We look at all the products we used and how best they can be recycled, and all considered with patient safety as our first and primary objective. So if this initiative heightens in-house awareness on any given day and makes us as a staff think differently and more positively about recycling, then it will be worth it. The Green Group was in place here prior to the pandemic but you could say that the past year has made us as a staff concentrate our minds on such matters given the increased amount of disposables that we’ve had to use and that’s the way it’s had to be at the moment but it’s something we’ll continue to pay close attention to as we move towards a post-Covid world.”
UHW’s status as the city’s largest single employer creates an onus on management and staff to demonstrate leadership when it comes to environmental sustainability.
“People sometimes might forget the number of feet that fall through the hospital every day between patients and staff,” said Paula Curtin, “and if we in the Maternity and Neo-Natal Services can do our bit to heighten awareness, then it will have been well and truly worth it. It’s about having a greener agenda and making UHW as pleasant an environment to work it as we can achieve. Positive change to the hospital environment was brought about by the art which now decorates so many of our corridors so all of this initiative carry weight. It’s all about how you can help patients and staff on a daily basis and making this space as pleasant and as colourful as possible.”
Similar tree planting ceremonies were conducted on Tuesday last by Maternity Unit staff at South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel, Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Kerry as part of the Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate Green Group initiative.
Meanwhile, UHW’s Maternity and Neo Natal staff will once again partake in a friendly ‘seed nursery’ challenge, a morale boosting event established last year, designed to counteract the stresses catalysed by the pandemic.
Between 70 and 80 staff took part last year, growing food at home, with Clinical Midwife Manager Maria Murtagh describing it as “something to do that could take our minds off work – a bit of friendly competition in the best possible sense!” GIY is also assisting in the effort.