Feature articles by: David P. Gehant, FACHE, James G. Coller, FACHE, and Annette L. Grunseth I was driving on a country road the other day, the rain falling fiercely for a while, and the sky to the left was black as night. As I questioned the wisdom of picking that day and time to go shopping, I came to a sharp left turn in the road, and suddenly the sun came out brilliantly on my right. I knew there had to be a rainbow! I made the left turn, and as I slowed my car to look for it (a safe maneuver on what is typically an almost deserted country road), there it was, a brilliant full arc! I pulled over and watched the rainbow in all its brilliance. After a few minutes it began to fade, and I continued on my mundane trip. The dying rainbow became a metaphor for what this issue of Frontiers is all about – the fading of our amazing, life-sustaining planet, and the importance of doing something about it.
We in healthcare, with our abounding construction, tons of waste materials (some hazardous), 24/7 operations, and ongoing potential to injure or help our environment, share enormous responsibility for protecting our environment. Many healthcare organizations have already unleashed “green” initiatives. They recognize that people heal better in environmentally friendly spaces, that all humans do better in such spaces. They also know that, with the significant presence healthcare providers have in their communities, there is abundant opportunity to take the lead in curing the environmental ills of those communities. In many towns, the healthcare provider organizations are among the largest employers. From that strong presence, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to provide leadership and example to others to, as our authors from St. Mary’s in Green Bay, WI say, “do the right thing”.
Now, you might be sitting there saying, “Yes, but doing this right thing is going to cost me money!” Think again. You’ll read about hospitals that have made it work financially, and you’ll hear from some of our leading “green” experts reporting on the positive financial impact of environmentally friendly initiatives.
Boulder Community Hospital in Boulder, Colorado and St. Mary’s Health System in Green Bay, Wisconsin are two hospitals that have taken action in their building projects, in their waste disposal, in their purchasing, and in other functions to assure that they take care of their locality. Their award-winning initiatives have grown, and they have enjoyed not only recognition and appreciation, but financial benefits, growing employee pride, and the satisfaction of fulfilling a mission to improve and protect the earth while they heal people. They, and our commentators, while from divergent roles, all send a resounding message about the impact of our hospitals on our environment: The need to act is now – a healing urgency is upon us.
Back to thinking of that rainbow--at one time we dreamed childhood dreams of a magical “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow, but somehow we could never find that pot. Now, we come to know that the pot of gold is the rainbow itself. Our earth, and the environment it provides for us, must not be allowed to fade or our pot of gold will be lost.