Nurse manager Barbara Gumnor receives 2021 UC Davis Sustainability Champion Award (video)

UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May presents a Sustainability Champion Award to Barbara Gumnor. (This video is best viewed in Chrome or Firefox.)

Red bags – intended for the disposal of biohazardous materials – were filling up with inappropriate refuse. Patients tossed their discarded items into them, and staff also used them when other receptacles were full, especially because the red bag containers were disproportionately large.

And as a result, red bags were accumulating at an alarming rate – leading to unnecessary impacts on the environment and a financial burden on UC Davis Health.

Barbara Gumnor, nurse manager on East 6 at UC Davis Medical Center, sought a solution. She took the time to educate the team on her unit about appropriate use of red bags, replaced oversized red bag containers with bag dispensers, and created new processes to cut down on waste. That trial workflow was so successful that it was expanded to other units and eventually adopted by the entire Patient Care Services division.

In accepting the award, Gumnor highlighted the teamwork behind the effort.

For her efforts above and beyond the requirements of her position, Gumnor was recently recognized with a Sustainability Champion Award during the 2021 UC Davis Sustainability Summit.

“Her successful efforts to reduce medical waste have far-reaching impact beyond the Sacramento campus as others look to replicate them on their own health campuses,” said Chancellor Gary S. May during the virtual award ceremony.

At UC Davis Health, the initiative of dedicated employees such as Gumnor have resulted in a dramatic decrease in the use of red bags, which are meant for disposal of recognizable fluid blood, fluid blood products, items caked with dried blood, or contaminated items containing blood or OPIM (other potentially infectious materials).

While the goal for fiscal year 2021 is a 6% reduction from the baseline of 3.82 pounds/adjusted patient day (APD), down to 3.59 pounds/APD, the current average year-to-date metric stands at just 2.64 pounds/APD.

“For Barbara, cutting down on red bag waste isn’t just about saving money or making patient rooms cleaner and less cluttered – although those were certainly effects of her efforts,” said UC Davis Health Director of Sustainability Colleen McCormick. “It’s also about health care personnel fulfilling their environmental and climate responsibilities, on a much broader scale.”

Gumnor worked closely with McCormick and Tom Ocheltree, operational waste programs administrator – as well as colleagues in Environmental Services and Patient Care Services – to roll out the red bag waste reduction project. In accepting the Sustainability Champion Award (which was presented to four UC Davis community members), Gumnor acknowledged those vital collaborations.

“I’d like to highlight this honor on behalf of our entire team and wonderful leadership because, as you all are aware, it takes a village,” she said. “I’m so glad to be part of our sustainability success with such a fantastic team.”