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Hospitals Recognized for Environmental Excellence

Hospitals across the country were honored this week for outstanding environmental performance at the first annual awards ceremony of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment.

Hospitals across the country were honored this week for outstanding environmental performance at the first annual awards ceremony of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E), a joint program of the American Hospital Association, American Nurses Association, Health Care Without Harm and the Environmental Protection Agency.

H2E's premier award, the Environmental Leadership Award, went to three hospitals that are setting the standard for environmental practices in health care: University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, University of Rochester Strong Memorial Hospital and Kaiser Permanente - Northwest Region.

"We commend these hospitals for their exceptional achievements in waste minimization, pollution prevention and mercury elimination," said H2E coordinator Laura Brannen. "These leaders stand as a shining example of what hospitals can achieve by prioritizing environmental programs."

H2E also honored 11 health-related organizations with the "Champions for Change Award" in recognition of their work to promote pollution prevention and to bring new hospitals into the H2E program. "Recruitment of hospitals is vital to the H2E goal of 50 percent waste reduction by 2010 and virtual elimination of mercury by 2005. The Champions for Change award winners are excelling in the effort to bring new partners on board," Brannen said.

H2E also honored 17 hospitals with the "Partners for Change Award" for making significant progress reducing waste and eliminating mercury, and 20 hospitals with the "Making Medicine Mercury Free Award."

All the awards are given annually, beginning this year, to facilities that commit to the H2E waste and toxicity reduction goals. H2E aims to eliminate mercury-containing waste from the health care waste stream, to reduce the volume of all waste generated, and to minimize the production of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) pollutants.

H2E 2002 Environmental Leadership Award Winners are:

  • University of Rochester Strong Memorial Hospital has long been a leader in pollution prevention. It began a regulated medical waste reduction program in 1995 that allowed it to shut down its incinerator in favor of autoclaves. Between 1995 and 1997, the hospital reduced red bag generation by more than 65 percent. It eliminated the use of the toxic gas ethylene oxide and switched to a non-toxic antifreeze. It instituted a value analysis program that allows it to look at all aspects of a product - including environmental impact, latex content, packaging and disposal issues - before purchasing. Administrators have an outstanding mercury elimination program and make an effort to be a role model to other hospitals by working with regulators to develop educational pieces and speaking to colleagues at conferences.
  • Kaiser Permanente - Northwest Region developed a substantive recycling program that aims to minimize production of solid waste. The region's recycling program includes fluorescent bulbs, glass, tin, plastic, paper, alcohol and xylene recycling, silver recovery, amalgam recovery, sterile wrap, batteries, toner cartridges, carpeting and construction debris. In the last two years, the region reduced solid waste by 36 percent; achieved virtual elimination of mercury-containing products; and initiated an aggressive red bag waste minimization program that has resulted in a 20 percent reduction in red bag waste. In addition, the region's environmental purchasing program stands as a model for other hospitals and health systems across the country.
  • University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers (UMHHC) closed down its incinerator and installing a steam-based autoclave. The change, although initially incurring a higher cost, has allowed the university to cut pollution from air emissions and put more emphasis on waste reduction and segregation efforts. UMHHC recycles more than 800 tons of material a year, diverting nearly a quarter of its trash from the waste stream and saving more than $30,000. It is currently developing an innovative formalin recycling program that will decrease the amount of hazardous waste being produced by its facilities while also decreasing costs by more than $20,000 a year. UMHHC has virtually eliminated the use of mercury throughout the hospital and is working with EPA's Energy Star program to make its buildings energy-efficient.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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