ELIZABETHTOWN - Elizabethtown Community Hospital is making a conscious effort to reduce its impact on the environment and improve the overall health of its patients in the process.
The hospital has instituted a Healthy Environment Initiative, part of an ongoing series of decisions that have led to more healthy, cost-effective and environmentally friendly operations there.
"The hospital's top priority is the health and safety of its patients, staff and community", said ECH Administrator Rod Boula. "ECH has no intention of doing anything that harms the environment and, in fact, strives to minimize its impact."
One recent change at the hospital has been the use of a non-toxic cleaning solution that eliminates phenols and other harmful substances from wastewater.
ECH community relations manager Jane Hooper said the non-toxic cleaners are also free of noxious fumes that are both harmful and malodorous to patients. Now, she said, hospital staff are more comfortable with the product they use.
"They're very proud of the fact that they can say to patients that this is healthier," Hooper said.
Though the non-toxic cleaners cost roughly double that of their phenol-carrying alternatives, Hooper said the hospital has made up for the cost in other ways.
The hospital received a $12,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority last year, which allowed them to install energy-efficient mercury-free lighting and other energy-saving upgrades.
Among those upgrades were a new heating system that is not only self-sufficient in case of a power outage, but will save the hospital roughly $26,000 in energy costs.
Another cost-saving measure from the grant are motion-detecting light switches in many of the hospital's offices that automatically shut off lights when nobody is occupying the space.
"A hospital is unique in that it operates 24-7," said Hooper, "so there are places throughout the building that don't need constant lighting, such as offices or clinic rooms. Even the lab and radiology can use less lighting at night."
Included in the recent renovations and expansion of the hospital were energy-efficient double-pane windows throughout the building. The large windows in new patient rooms and lobby let in more sunlight, reducing the need for electricity and promoting emotional well-being.
The building's new roof is constructed of a black rubber product that absorbs energy from sunlight, helping to melt snow and ice during the winter months and inhibiting mold growth in the summer.
To continue in that theme of going green, Hooper said the hospital will be making an ongoing effort to promote recycling and reduce its use of paper. Many documents are already being produced and stored electronically instead of with a hard copy.
"Also, that way, we don't have a paper copy taking up space," Hooper said.
"This hospital is located in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled areas of the nation", said Matt Nolan, director of facilities at ECH. "Our administration believes that part of being a good neighbor means ensuring that the hospital is doing its part to help keep our local environment healthy."