Saint Vincent Hospital Leads Nationwide Call to Action for Healthier Communities
Initiative Challenges Health Systems to Protect Patient Health, Improve Efficiency and Reduce Costs.
Worcester, MA -- Few sectors of the economy consume as many resources -- electricity, water, cleaning products, chemicals and food -- as health care. As research linking environmental impact with chronic disease continues to emerge, it poses a unique question to hospitals such as Saint Vincent Hospital. If the mission is to heal and promote health, shouldn't reducing the environmental impact be part of their work?
For Saint Vincent Hospital the answer is "yes", and its parent company, Vanguard Health Systems, is urging other hospitals around the country to join the movement. "It's not enough for us to treat disease. We want to address the underlying causes of disease where possible," said Erik Wexler, Saint Vincent Hospital President and CEO. "We have seen the dramatic difference that simple changes can make in the health of patients and staff, and how it can lay the groundwork for better health in our communitiies. Plus, the cost savings achieved means we have more resources to do what we do best -- care for patients."
Vanguard Health Systems, as part of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), recently joined with Practice Greenhealth, Health Care Without Harm, The Center for Health Design and nine other major health systems in Washington, D.C. to issue a simple call to action to other hospitals across the country.
We are creating a movement in health care to support healthier and more resilient communities," said Gary Cohen, Founder and President of Health Care Without Harm. "By reducing exposure to harmful chemicals, promoting healthy foods and conserving energy, hospitals can not only reduce operational costs, they can improve the health of people in their comunities before they ever enter a hospital."
Saint Vincent Hospital has already adopted changes into day-to-day practices that have reduced waste and lowered costs. In fact, Saint Vincent Hospital continues it participation in recycling of cardboard (the Hospital sends out approximately 13 tons a month for recycling), paper, printer cartridges, light bulbs and batteries. By using the Stericycle Sharps Management Service and BioSystems Reusable Sharps Containers, Saint Vincent Hospital regularly diverts tens of thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide, plastic and cardboard. Whenever possible, the Hospitals' chemical waste is sent for fuel blending and used to create emergency/electricity at a conversion plant. (Saint Vincent Hospital has been a mercury-free facility since opening at its Summer Street location in April of 2000.)
The new campaign urges the nation's hospitals to accelerate adoption of the six HHI Challenges and commit to improving the health and safety of patients, staff and communities by using the initative's newly published and free, step-by-step guides to pick and implement six key challenges:
- Engage in leadership on environment health and sustainability
- Serve healthier foods
- Reduce energy use
- Reduce waste
- Use safer chemicals
- Purchase environmentally preferable products
By taking on select challenges, Saint Vincent Hospital has seen a positive impact n the community. In addition to the sustainability programs noted earlier, the Hospital's food services department also buy locally. This helps to support and preserve the American family farm and reduces the carbon footprint of our supply chain. "As a health care provider," explains Amy Collins, M.D. a consultant working with hospitals within Vanguard Health Systems to develop and nurture their sustainability initiatives, "we understand our obligation to put health first and think about our health impact in a more preventative way."
During the next three years, the initiative will gather data and metrics from participating hospitals to demonstrate the impact these strides are having on the health and safety of patients, workers and communities, as well as on reducing health care expenditures.