Midwest – In just nine months, Mercy – a group of 30 hospitals in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma – has already saved almost $800,000 and diverted more than 20,000 pounds of waste from local landfills. And by all estimates, Mercy stands to save $2 million annually and some 30 tons from landfills once all facilities are at full speed with a new green initiative that involves reprocessing medical devices.
“The health industry is second only to the food industry in contributing to our nation’s landfills,” said Lynn Britton, Mercy president and CEO. “Not only is Mercy impacting our environment by reprocessing medical devices, we are putting the savings back into patient care. This is just one of Mercy’s strategies to reduce health care costs while increasing the quality of patient care.”
Following stringent guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, hospitals across the country are beginning to revisit reprocessing devices such as surgical scissors, drills and many opened but unused items. For years, U.S. hospitals have reprocessed devices in-house or through outside vendors but over time, with a more disposable society, landfills are overflowing.
According to a March 2010 study published in the Association of American Medical Colleges journal, devices which are properly reprocessed “do not present an increased health risk when compared with new, non-reprocessed devices.”
“Now, to ensure safety and efficiency, as well as comply with FDA regulations, Mercy is partnering with a leading single outside vendor which disassembles, cleans, inspects, certifies, sterilizes and restores devices to manufacturer specifications and then returns items to Mercy facilities,” said Stacy Howard, RN, MHA, MBA, director of Mercy’s ROi operational support services. “They meticulously track how many times each device has been processed and recycle them when they need to be retired.”
Along with reprocessing, here are some other ways Mercy is green:
Mercy Medical Center in Rogers, Arkansas, is one of only 21 hospitals in the country currently Energy Star certified, meaning it uses less energy, is less expensive to operate and causes fewer greenhouse gas emissions than its peers, according to EPA standards.
Mercy Data Center in Washington, Missouri, opening in summer of 2010, was designed to be compliant with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – the standard for green building design. Case in point: of the 255 tons of steel used, 100 percent came from recycled sources.
St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri, will open a new patient tower this summer utilizing light harvesting.
Many Mercy facilities are also switching to green cleaning chemicals, reducing utility costs, doing away with water bottles and recycling everything from cardboard to batteries.
“No snowflake ever feels responsible for the avalanche but we are all responsible for this planet,” said Sister Mary Roch Rocklage, RSM, Sisters of Mercy health ministry liaison. “Across Mercy, our 36,000 co-workers are impacting our communities by taking care of the planet God gifted us.”
Mercy — Sisters of Mercy Health System — is the eighth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and includes 30 hospitals and more than 1,300 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.