Bon Secours Health System

By Greenhealth Staff on March 5, 2013

Karen Schwartz, vice president of facilities and support services at Bon Secours, discusses sustainability.

Greenhealth: Why is sustainability important to you?

Karen Schwartz: The mission of Bon Secours Health System calls on each of us to bring compassion to health care and to be good help to those in need, especially those who are poor and dying. We commit ourselves to bring health and wholeness to the communities in which we serve. If we reference Norwegian social democrat Gro Harlem Brundtland’s definition of sustainability—to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs—there is a connection. In the health care sphere, we are learning that environmental sustainability is a natural component of deepening our understanding of our mission and our ministry. The Brundtland Commission focuses on the social impacts of the marginalized—this focus aligns well with the mission of Bon Secours. Sustainable measures have a positive impact on the health of communities.

Bon Secours Health System Office

GH: How did you become involved in this role at the hospital?

KS: Through a Ministry Leadership Foundations project, I was fortunate to be on a team that focused on establishing an ecological sustainability platform for our health system. It has been very rewarding to watch the growth of this initiative in our system. From this, I was selected to serve as the executive leader for the Greenville market on the Corporate Ecological Council. This opportunity gave me the ability to have influence in our corporate programs as well as hands on impact in our local Greenville Green team strategies.

GH: What are your greatest accomplishments?

KS: From a system point of view, I would have to say the work on creating that first a strategic plan for sustainability for our health care system. We are located in six states across the eastern portion of the U.S. with 19 acute care hospitals, five nursing care facilities, four assisted living centers, two retirement communities and 14 home care programs with more than 22,000 employees. Being a part of the beginning of our environmental journey was fun; watching it continue to grow and become part of the culture is very meaningful.

In my local market, I would have to cite being recognized as an Environmental Leadership Circle inductee for Practice Greenhealth and receiving the first ENERGY STAR Hospital designation for South Carolina as memorable accomplishments.

GH: What are your greatest challenges?

KS: Competing priorities would have to be my top selection. Intertwining sustainability into a culture is a journey. Health care has so many uncertainties today on our road from volume to value—it is a challenge to keep all the balls in the air. Bon Secours Health System is about four years into our sustainability journey, so we still have much work to accomplish. We are fortunate to have guidance and counsel from other faith-based ministries that have been working on their journey much longer.

GH: What projects are you most proud of?

KS: There are several, actually: creating a successful Energy Utilization model and infrastructure for our corporate system that is user-friendly for each local market; creating a waste-stream reduction strategy for each local market; signing the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge; and interaction with Healthier Communities Initiatives in each local market to create community gardens.

GH: What strides has Bon Secours made in energy efficiency?

KS: Over the past year, our energy initiative progressed from the planning and preparation stage to the action stage. Our goal was to directly improve the energy efficiency of building operations and reduce the cost of utility contract purchases. Our system identified two measures by which to track our progress: 1) the percent of standardized energy conservation measures implemented, and 2) energy consumption as measured through Bon Secours Health System participation in the ENERGY STAR Manager program for health care facilities. Energy cost progress was measured through the actual payments to the energy utilities and contracting pricing levels. Our results are listed here:

Energy Conservation Measures Implementation: Twenty-four standard low cost/no cost measures were established by the Energy Management Council (composed of representatives from each of our markets). Our target was to implement 90 percent of these measures in each market. We achieved a 96 percent completion rate, with nine of our facilities achieving 100 percent completion. We also completed energy audits in six facilities to allow us to continue to learn more about reducing energy utilization.

Energy Consumption: All facilities were registered as ENERGY STAR Manager participants in FY 2011—we used this year to establish our baseline energy utilization information. Our FY 2012 goal was to reduce our utilization by 3 to 5 percent. This was a learning experience for our organization as we gained better understanding between the Weather Normalized Energy Utilization Index and the Site Energy Utilization Index. Even with the highest summer temperatures on record, we experienced a reduction in our Site Energy Utilization by an average of 2.5 percent, with five of our facilities exceeding the 3 percent goal.

Energy Utilization Expense: Bon Secours achieved a 10.5 percent reduction in energy costs in FY 2012 as compared to FY 2011.

GH: What about water conservation?

KS: This is an area where we’re doing some research so we can have a corporate strategy—several of our local markets have made infrastructure changes that have resulted in a reduction in water usage, but we currently do not have corporate strategy. Our goal would be to have a strategy around water similar to the strategy we have used around waste and energy. These seem to have worked for our organization.

GH: What are your goals for 2013 in terms of energy efficiency?

KS: We are committing to the Healthier Hospitals Initiative platform around leaner energy. Our goal would be to continue to work on the platform we have created. Our Energy Council meets monthly and is working on our strategic plans around the following areas: development of a Reinvestment/New Technology Strategy (rationale for funding), Staff Engagement/Advocacy Campaign Enhancement (for all staff, but specifically engineering staff), and Construction Services Collaboration and Alignment.

GH: Does renewable energy play a role in your sustainability plan?

KS: This is a discussion point for our Energy Council—the idea certainly appeals to us. We would roll this up under strategy number one in the above question. What we need is partners. There are several other large health care organizations that have been very successful in this area—Gunderson Lutheran, for example. What a great role model.

GH: What keeps you motivated?

KS: Making a difference—just the idea that the changes we continue to make in our organization, in each of our local ministries, impact folks globally that we may never have the pleasure of meeting. It is about Servant Leadership.

New Facility Members

  • Beaumont Health System- Royal Oak Campus Royal Oak, MI
  • BUMED- U.S. Navy & Marine Corps Medical Command Portsmouth, VA
  • Chesapeake Regional Medical Center Chesapeake, VA
  • Children’s National Medical Center Washington, DC
  • CHRISTUS Health Coushatta Coushatta, LA
  • CHRISTUS Health Shreveport Shreveport, LA
  • CHRISTUS Health St. Patrick Lake Charles, LA
  • Elliot Hospital Manchester, NH
  • Hackensack University Medical Center Hackensack, NJ
  • Lake Health Concord Township, OH
  • Maine Coast Memorial Hospital Ellsworth, ME
  • Methodist Hospital of Southern California Arcadia, CA
  • Montefiore Medical Center Bronx, NY
  • Northern Berkshire Healthcare North Adams, MA
  • Poudre Valley Hospital Fort Collins, CO
  • Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center Hartford, CT

Renewing Facility Members

  • Arkansas Children’s Hospital Little Rock, AR
  • Baptist Health South Florida Coral Gables, FL
  • Bon Secours Health System Marriottsvlle, MD
  • Calvert Memorial Hospital Frederick, MD
  • Carolinas Health Care- Lincoln Lincolnton, NC
  • Carroll Hospital Center Westminster, MD
  • Catholic Health Initiatives Denver, CO
  • Catholic Health System- Buffalo Buffalo, NY
  • Charles Cole Memorial Hospital Coudersport, PA
  • Christiana Care Health System Wilmington, DE
  • CHRISTUS Health St. Frances Cabrini Alexandria, LA
  • Columbia St. Mary’s Health Milwaukee, WI
  • Covenant Health Systems Tewksbury, MA
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Boston, MA
  • Dignity Health San Francisco, CA
  • Fairview Health Services Minneapolis, MN
  • Geisinger Medical Center Danville, PA
  • Greater Baltimore Medical Center Baltimore, MD
  • Gundersen Lutheran Health System Lacrosse, WI
  • HCA Nashville, TN
  • Health Partners Minneapolis, MN
  • Hospital Sisters Health System Springfield, IL
  • Inova Health System Falls Church, VA
  • Intermountain Healthcare Salt Lake City, UT
  • Iowa Health System Des Moines, IA
  • Kaiser Permanente Oakland, CA
  • Lehigh Valley Health Network Allentown, PA
  • Lifebridge Health Baltimore, MD
  • Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC Pittsburgh, PA
  • MEDCOM- US Army Hospitals San Antonio, TX
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY
  • Northern Michigan Regional Hospital Petosky, MI
  • Oregon Health & Science University Portland, OR
  • Partners HealthCare Boston, MA
  • Providence Health & Services- Montana Missoula, MT
  • Providence Health & Services- Oregon Portland, OR
  • Providence St. Peter Hospital Olympia, WA
  • Ridgeview Medical Center Waconia, MN
  • Schneck Medical Center Seymour, IN
  • Seton Healthcare Family Austin, TX
  • St. John Providence Health System Detroit, MI
  • Stanford University Medical Center Stanford, CA
  • The Ottawa Hospital Ottawa, ON
  • UCLA Medical Center Los Angeles, CA
  • Union Hospital Terre Haute, IN
  • University Hospitals Cleveland, OH
  • University of Maryland Medical Center Baltimore, MD
  • University of Michigan Health System Ann Arbor, MI
  • University of Washington Medical Center Seattle, WA
  • Vidant Chowan & Bertie Hospitals Edenton and Windsor, NC
  • Western Maryland Health System Cumberland, MD