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Peterborough: A greener path to health care

  • Floor care technician Dave Fenner scrubs the floor of a trauma room in the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency wing, using a environmentally safe cleaning product. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Floor care technician Dave Fenner scrubs the floor of a trauma room in the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency wing, using a environmentally safe cleaning product.
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Floor care technician Dave Fenner scrubs the floor of a trauma room in the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency wing, using a environmentally safe cleaning product. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Floor care technician Dave Fenner scrubs the floor of a trauma room in the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency wing, using a environmentally safe cleaning product.
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Floor care technician Dave Fenner scrubs the floor of a trauma room in the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency wing, using a environmentally safe cleaning product. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Floor care technician Dave Fenner scrubs the floor of a trauma room in the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency wing, using a environmentally safe cleaning product.
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Floor care technician Dave Fenner scrubs the floor of a trauma room in the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency wing, using a environmentally safe cleaning product. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Floor care technician Dave Fenner scrubs the floor of a trauma room in the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency wing, using a environmentally safe cleaning product. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Floor care technician Dave Fenner scrubs the floor of a trauma room in the Monadnock Community Hospital emergency wing, using a environmentally safe cleaning product. <br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

Going green isn’t easy, but Monadnock Community Hospital is taking on the task. Unlike many organizations that focus their efforts in one or two areas, the Peterborough hospital is tackling all six of the challenges presented under the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, a free national program designed to help hospitals increase the use of sustainable products while also lowering costs.

“It’s all voluntary,” said Laura Gingras, the hospital’s vice president for community relations, last week. “We are the first of the smaller critical access hospitals to get involved.”

Gingras is serving as the executive champion for the hospital’s team, which is focusing on six areas — engaged leadership, healthier food, leaner energy, less waste, safer chemicals and smarter purchasing.

Liz Fazio, the hospital’s environmental services manager, said the hospital has already made significant progress in reducing waste.

“Since 2010, we’ve had a big reduction in the amount of biohazard waste we generate,” Fazio said on Thursday. “The HHI target is that no more than 10 percent of waste material be biohazard. We are at 6 percent.”

Some of the reduction comes from simple measures, like the posters placed throughout the building reminding staffers about what should not go into a biohazard container.

“It’s mostly teaching, reminding people that pizza boxes don’t go in a biohazard,” Fazio said. “A broken glass doesn’t have to go in the sharps container with needles. It can be picked up and go in the regular trash.”

Fazio said her staff focuses on sending only full containers of biohazardous materials, even freezing placentas that are recovered after births, until enough are on hand to justify a shipment.

The reduction in medical waste meant the hospital achieved level 1 certification in that area under the HHI program. The next goal is to reduce overall recycling to 15 percent of total waste, with the eventual target of having 80 percent recycling.

Fazio is also in charge of the safer chemicals initiative.

The hospital achieved level 1 certification by switching to a line of exam gloves that contain no polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. The next step will be to reduce the amount of PVC, formaldehyde and halogenated flame retardants in the hospital’s furniture, a project that will be ongoing as new furniture is ordered.

Fazio said the hospital has instituted a rapid cycle testing process to use when a staffer has an idea that could help meet HHI targets.

“One of the great things about being a small hospital is that [staffers] are not just a number,” she said. “We’ll try something for a week or two and see if it works. [Rapid cycle testing] has been a great tool.”

In the past, Fazio said, a product that
was labeled as “green” always cost more money. That’s not always the case today, and she’s found many products with green star certification that work well and are affordable.

“We’ve taken the Windex away, and we clean with a product called Proxy,” she said.

Another area where the hospital is focusing its effort is on trying to provide healthier food.

Goals are to decrease the amount of meat purchased by 20 percent within three years, to increase the percentage of healthier beverage purchases by 20 percent annually, or get to 80 percent healthier beverage purchases within three years, and increase the percentage of locally grown or sustainable food by 20 percent annually.

The hospital’s not there yet, but small steps are under way.

“We’ve repositioned where we have the healthier drinks in our coolers in the cafeteria,” Gingras said. “We’re putting the nonsugar drinks in the prominent spots. We’re also buying smaller sizes of the sugar drinks.”

The hospital is also putting its cappuccino machine in storage for the summer, replacing it with an iced tea dispenser, offering a variety of green and herbal teas.

Gingras said some hospitals have gone so far as to ban drinks with sugar, but that often doesn’t work.

“Many Americans really like their sugar drinks,” she said. “It’s a balancing act. We have to respect the expectations of our patients and visitors. It’s nothing we can mandate.”

Gingras said a number of other New Hampshire hospitals have expressed interest in the program. This week, Fazio will be a featured speaker at the N.H. Hospitals for a Healthy Environment meeting at Cottage Hospital in Woodsville, where she’s described Monadnock Community Hospitals efforts so far.

The HHI initiative is just getting started, but Gingras said results so far are encouraging.

It’s a long-term project for us,” Gingras said. “We have so many folks here who really care about sustainability. They are the ones who are leading the charge.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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