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Funding win for RPA physiotherapist’s project

Olivia McGuiness wants to help patients and reduce waste.

Woman sitting at a desk holding a device
SydneyConnect Image: Olivia McGuiness

Olivia McGuiness has a passion for helping patients breathe easier at night.

As a physiotherapist at RPA’s Respiratory Support Service she cares for patients who use specialised equipment at home to help with sleep apnoea or respiratory failure.

Olivia has been awarded $30 000 from the NSW Health Sustainable Futures Innovation Fund for a research project which will analyse infection control procedures for the safe reuse of this type of equipment, like Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) machines, in the home. 

The NSW Health Sustainable Futures Innovation Fund supports staff-led innovation projects that improve patient care and reduce the healthcare system’s environmental footprint either in emissions or waste.

As CPAP and NIV machines are expensive, they may be provided to patients through a loan pool or equipment provider and might be used by more than one person. 

Olivia’s research will focus on understanding if harmful microbes can be passed between individuals via the use of these devices and will l analyse the microbiology from the devices before and after use in patients’ homes.

“There is a perception in the community that reprocessed, loaned devices are less hygienic than brand new machines. There is no evidence base for this assertion but there are still an enormous number of machines that don’t get reused. They get returned from patients who no longer need them, and they end up in landfill. It creates lots and lots of medical waste,” Olivia said. 

Oliva will collaborate with EnableNSW an organisation which provides assistive technology and related services for people in NSW with specific, short term or ongoing health needs to help them to live safely at home. 

There are thousands of assistive technology devices are currently in circulation throughout the state, including CPAP and NIV machines.

“Many devices that are potentially suitable for other patients are being disposed of by manufacturers and other agencies. They contain parts like metal alloys, rare earth metals, lithium-ion batteries, LCD screens and plastics. Their components are not always broken down into recycling streams,” Olivia said. 

Olivia hopes the research project will provide an evidence based justification for the safe reuse of the machines in Sydney Local Health District – and the wider healthcare system – and avoid the unnecessary disposal of them. This, in turn, would   reduce the number of new devices issued to patients, decrease medical waste and contribute to a cut in carbon emissions.

“It’s an important piece of work. This project will help our department and wider hospital improve current cleaning procedures and practices, and hopefully influence other clinicians across the country to do the same,” Professor Paul Torzillo, the Head of RPA’s Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, said. 

For more information, please visit the NSW Health Sustainable Futures Innovation Fund.