Green Line Series | Virginia Mason and the Washington State Climate Declaration

Katerie ChapmanOn this installment of the Green Line Series we had the opportunity to interview Katerie Chapman, Senior Vice President and Hospital Administrator, Virginia Mason Medical Center from the plenary session Washington Businesses Call for Climate Action. Read along to find out more about Virginia Mason’s commitment to better environmental practices and their leadership in climate action.

GoGreen Conference: Why did Virginia Mason sign the Washington State Climate Declaration in 2014?

Katerie Chapman: Virginia Mason did more than sign the declaration — we chaired the team that  developed the Washington State Climate Declaration.  We led the effort in Washington state because climate change impacts human health significantly.  Not only is it a risk to health, but climate change is forecast to have major impacts on Washington state’s economy.  Embracing clean energy and technology provides an opportunity to respond to climate change while growing Washington state’s business sector.  By acting on climate, we can protect our region’s health and keep the economy growing.

GG: What is the biggest opportunity/challenge that climate change presents for Virginia Mason?
KC: Our biggest carbon emissions relate to our energy use. Our hospital is one of the most energy efficient in the country and we have achieved Energy Star ratings for three years in a row.  We have been working on reducing our energy use and running our buildings more efficiently since the 1990s.  We have a culture of innovation, so this is a natural process for us.

The big challenge with climate change will come when we see its effects on our patients expand.  Over the next decade, we anticipate seeing more respiratory issues and heat stress due to high heat days and wildfires.  We are leading on climate to ultimately help reduce the impacts of climate change, and our team will be ready to respond for our patients.

GG: How has Virginia Mason’s vision and strategic planning evolved in response to climate change?
KC: Virginia Mason was honored to participate in the Health Care Climate Resilience Roundtable at the White House. During that discussion, the White House highlighted President Obama’s plan to create resilient and sustainable hospitals.  As a result of the meeting, the National Institutes of Health created a toolkit for assessing health care climate resilience.  We were the only health care organization in the Pacific Northwest to test the toolkit prior to the roll-out. The tool kit gave us some “ah-ha” moments. For example, we realized we are not necessarily sizing our HVAC systems for the additional high-heat days that are forecast due to climate change.

GG: Can you describe how Virginia Mason has implemented programs to engage employees with sustainability efforts?
KC: In 2002, we implemented our own “lean” or “kaizen” program by adapting the Toyota Production System to health care.  The resulting Virginia Mason Production System is fully integrated into Virginia Mason’s culture.  Employee engagement and respect for people are at the core of the production system, which empowers employees to facilitate process improvement.

Our focused commitment to quality extends to environmental sustainability.  Sustainability is  integrated into our everyday work along with patient safety and other organizational process improvements.  One simple way that employees can engage in process improvement in their department is through our online “Everyday Lean Idea” system.  Employees enter ideas into the system where they are tracked from testing to refinement and full implementation.  We have a “green idea” category for sustainability ideas, and these “Everyday Lean and Green Ideas” are shared across the organization. Another way employees are engaged is through Kaizen Events, during which a team of employees work together to create solutions to a problem or opportunity.  Kaizen Events have included sustainability topics like hospital pharmaceutical waste management and missioning supplies from the OR.

Event Details: GoGreen Seattle 2015, brought to you by King County, will take place Thursday, April 30, 2015 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595.  Single Admission Tickets are $195 and Group Rate Tickets are $175 (groups of two or more).  Special registration rates for student, government and non-profits are available.

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