Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC

By Melanie Bracey on July 16, 2015

The longstanding hospital focuses on educating its patients, staff and community on sustainability.

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The Turtle and Fish Pond Garden at Magee provides organic vegetables and herbs for patients and staff.

Since the early 20th century, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC has focused on providing well-rounded health care to women and infants in and around Pittsburgh. Hand in hand with that focus has been educating caregivers and patients about the link between sustainable practices and healthy living.

Judy Focareta, coordinator of environmental health initiatives at Magee, said educating staff about environmental health is a priority. “We wanted to make sure everyone on staff knew what it meant to be sustainable,” she said.

Every spring, Magee hosts its Environmental Health Literacy Symposium, which educates health care providers on how to incorporate environmental health initiatives into patient care. Along with staff education, Magee offers classes to patients and community members on the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle, from how to maintain an organic diet to environmental health education for new parents.

But education is only one aspect; the other side is about living the message. To provide a healthy and sustainable example, Magee partnered with Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh to bring in a horticulturist to work with the dietary department to plan and maintain two onsite organic vegetable gardens. The produce from the gardens—which brought in more than 2,100 pounds of vegetables and herbs last year—is prepared and served in the staff cafeteria and for patient meals.

After three years of working with an external gardening consultant, Magee sent its gardening staff to the conservatory to learn the ins and outs of organic gardening. As a result, the hospital now has an internal team of organic gardeners who are able to nurture the highest quality food for patients and staff. “Food is medicine, so the gardens are a demonstration of what we’re about,” Focareta said.

Magee and its system-level administration—the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center—are also focused on big picture initiatives such as energy reduction. Magee recently revamped its entire facility with low-impact LED lights, and it offers electric car outlets in its employee parking facilities. UPMC also operates natural gas-powered shuttles to transport people to and from facilities and parking lots throughout the Pittsburgh area.

One catalyst for the UPMC system to set energy reduction goals was Pittsburgh joining the 2030 Districts®ᄜ challenge, a national initiative for communities to pledge to reduce energy and water usage and transportation emissions by 50 percent by 2030. UPMC signed on to the goal and contributed to the energy reduction effort by combining all IT services for its area hospitals into one facility and instituting downtime for its computers during off hours.

Every spring, Magee hosts its Environmental Health Literacy Symposium, which educates health care providers on how to incorporate environmental health initiatives into patient care. Along with staff education, Magee offers classes to patients and community members on the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle.

Now a decade into the sustainability program at Magee, Focareta’s team is made up of volunteers from every department who are integral to the program’s success. In the first year, the team reduced its red bag waste by 50 percent, and recycling is now up to 25 percent. “This year we decided to revisit recycling because it teaches about waste and about being responsible and makes you look at the world a little differently,” Focareta said.

Green building is also an emphasis, and Magee has two LEED-certified units, including its newest Silver-certified addition. To fully understand the benefits of the new unit, Magee partnered with environmental engineers from the University of Pittsburgh to study the attributes of evidence-based design, which uses proven methods and scientific theories to plan and build safe and nurturing structures. Significant improvements in patient and staff satisfaction, fewer medical errors and a decrease in length of stay were all results of the updated facility.

As a result of Magee’s longstanding focus on sustainability, Practice Greenhealth awarded the facility a 2015 Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award and three 2015 Circle of Excellence Awards in Leadership, Chemicals and Environmentally Preferable Purchasing.

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One catalyst for Magee and the UPMC system to set energy reduction goals was Pittsburgh joining a national challenge to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030.