SANDWICH, MA – Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cape Cod (SCC) has won two prestigious national “green” awards for instituting environmentally friendly practices throughout the hospital and for efforts to eliminate mercury.
The organization Practice Greenhealth awarded SCC its “Partner Recognition Award” and “Making Medicine Mercury-Free Award.” The group consists of hospitals, healthcare systems and businesses across the country committed to establishing strong environmental practices “to improve the health of patients, staff and the environment.”
“We’ve come a long way in just two years,” said Sharon Gale, a physical therapist and co-chair of the hospital’s environmental unit, called the Green Team.
The 12-member Green Team is a cross-section of administrators, managers, doctors and therapists who meet regularly to decide what needs to be addressed environmentally – and how to get there.
“I think our efforts have been successful because there’s a big “buy-in” from the hospital’s administration,” said Dawn Lucier, a physical therapist who co-chairs the unit with Gale.
“We take this seriously,” said Carole Stasiowski, director of community relations. “Because we’re located here on Cape Cod, we’re very aware of the Cape’s fragile ecosystem. Being green is important everywhere, but it’s especially true here, where everything ultimately ends up in the drinking water. We want to be seen as a leader in this area.”
Project Greenhealth cited the hospital’s green efforts on multiple fronts.
Environmental Purchasing Policy
For the past year, hospital officials have worked with its purchasing department to start “buying green.”
“This area is often overlooked, but it’s important,” Lucier said. “Our policy lets our suppliers know that, when able, SCC is committed to the purchase of environmentally preferable products, whether it’s made out of recycled materials or is more earth-friendly.” This includes switching over all the hospital’s traditional cleaning supplies to environmentally friendly versions.
The hospital also works with vendors to try and combine multiple orders before shipping to decrease packaging waste.
“We get a lot done by just educating the staff,” Lucier says. “That’s been a goal for us.” Using e-mail, seminars and other forums, the Green Team strives to get every staffer thinking green. “There’s been a learning curve for most everyone, no question,” she said. “But it’s beginning to pay off.”
Project Greenhealth cited several “employee initiatives” that hospital staff members took, including:
- Reducing the number of “hard copy” reports, e-mails and other documents. Hospital e-mails carry a tagline strongly suggesting the reader not make a printout.
- Eliminating unwanted or unnecessary catalogues, periodicals and newspapers.
- At staff recognition or employee events, the hospital awards reusable water bottles, coffee and travel mugs and bags.
Energy Efficiency, Water Conservation
The hospital focused on cutting energy usage and water consumption. Workers installed motion sensor lights in non-patient areas, replaced bulbs and lighting fixtures, streamlined heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems, and started purchasing only Energy Star-rated products.
For example, in just the kitchen alone, the hospital reduced its water use from 146,000 gallons to 1,566 gallons a year by installing a new steamer. That steamer helped reduce kitchen electricity use from 65,700 kw/year to 5475 kw/year.
Finally, the hospital replaced sprinklers with rain water collectors in the patients’ garden.
From thermometers to blood pressure meters to X-Ray film and light bulb filaments, mercury is prevalent in many hospitals. It’s also a toxic chemical that gives off hazardous vapors which are invisible and odorless. It’s a serious hazard to patients and staff members alike.
SCC took on the issue head on by establishing a comprehensive mercury management policy. The policy:
- Established protocols for safe handling.
- Implemented a detailed procedure to dispose of mercury, including spill cleanup procedures.
- Started an education and training program focusing on the effect mercury has on both human health and the environment.
- Established a mercury-free purchasing policy. The hospital has developed a preferred list of vendors willing to provide mercury-free product alternatives.
Locally, the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce also named SCC a recipient of its newly created Cape & Islands Green Award. The chamber cited the hospital’s emphasis on employee training, recycling and switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products. “SCC is a wonderful success story,” said Executive Director Kate Bavelock. “They’ve had some really concrete successes.”
Lucier said SCC is well on its way to implementing three new goals for 2010: achieving total mercury-free status; investigating alternative energy sources including wind and solar power; and offering healthy food choices by buying and supporting local farmers and those suppliers who buy locally.
“While there have been ups and downs, overall this has been a lot of fun,” Lucier said. “It’s exciting to be able to make such significant changes.”
Information, interview requests:
If you would like more information on SCC’s program, please contact Carole Stasiowski at 508-833-4006, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cape Cod provides comprehensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation for Cape Cod, the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, along with the South Shore and South Coast regions. Inpatient programs specialize in caring for persons with stroke, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, joint replacement surgery, amputation multiple trauma, and complex medical conditions. SCC also offers extensive outpatient therapy and rehabilitation physician services in centers in Sandwich, Yarmouth, Orleans and Plymouth. SCC for Children Eileen M. Ward Rehabilitation Center is a regional resource for children with a wide range of needs.