Hospitals are being pushed to be healthier!
Ironic, isn’t it. Fortunately, for citizens like you and I, who live next door to a hospital, this is brilliant news. In fact, it turns out, the push isn’t coming from neighborhood activists, or even from cities, though they push the large institutions to make changes. The push comes because it makes more sense economically to be more sustainable, to live leaner, and to use fewer resources.
As an aside, there are six areas hospitals are being challenged to be healthier: engaged leadership, less waste, healthier food, leaner energy, safer food, and smarter purchasing. I recall a report by the Sustainabilty Officer for PPMC some years ago and I thought it included waste and purchasing, but when I looked at the list of hospitals participating in a Healthy Hospitals Initiative, our PPMC was listed for leaner energy. Presumably, that includes transportation.
Recently, one of our Laurelhurst neighbors forwarded me an announcement for a webinar hosted by the Healthier Hospitals Initiative. When I saw the speaker was Paulo Nunes-Ueno, the director of transportation and sustainability for Seattle Children’s Hospital, one of the nation’s top pediatric hospitals and research institutes, and Vice President of Puget Sound Bike Share, well, I jumped at the opportunity. You see, many of us in this area hold up Seattle Children’s as the shining star in managing transportation demands and living with neighbors, rather than resisting and then resisting more. The neighbor sent me this:
Seattle Children’s is a leader in progressive transportation programs, winning 6 Diamond Awards for outstanding commute programs and several Governor’s Awards for excellence in Transportation Demand Management.
The City of Seattle created an ordinance that requires large employers to reduce their drive-alone rate to alleviate the impact of transportation on the roads and the environment. You’ll hear and see the SOV, or single occupancy vehicle, percentages as the primary measure. Seattle Children’s goal was to expand its campus in North East Seattle but reduce the SOV rate and avoid the need to construct 500 new parking stalls at an estimated cost of $20 million. The precious space needed for the additional 500 parking places would be put to better use as clinical space. This, in combination with Seattle Children’s commitment to the health of its workers and community, led to the development of a comprehensive transportation plan, developed in tandem with the facility’s strategic plan, looking ahead twenty years, starting in 2013.
Now, Seattle Children’s goal is to reduce single vehicle car use from its current rate of 40% to the rate of 30% by 2028 or the completion of its master plan. The transportation plan has already received notice and has garnered The Governor’s Commute Smart Award, EPA’s Commuter Choice Leadership Award, Commuter Challenge’s Diamond Award; Zip car’s 2010 Wheel of Change Award and is recognized as a model in healthy commuting strategies, safety and prevention. Seattle Children’s has also won Practice Greenhealth’s Partner for Change Award.
This morning, I eagerly listened in on the webinar and got the confirmation I was looking for. Indeed, Seattle Children’s is making changes. Employees are charged $10/day for parking (maximum) and paid $4 a day if they don’t drive. That can add up to $1000 per year to take another mode of transportation to the office. Oh, and if employees park in the neighborhood, they are first warned. After the 3rd offense, they are fired. Apparently, Children’s takes it very seriously that their business and expansion won’t infringe on the quality of life for the neighbors.
While Mr. Nunes-Ueno declared they have worked well with neighbors and taken the initiative in their development plans, I did find this article from 2010 that leads me to think the plan being implemented actually came out of neighbors protesting that the development was too much. Because of that, they’ve struck a deal and everyone is happily moving forward with a reduction in traffic AND expansion. Regardless of whether it took protesting neighbors to effect a change, the difference is that Seattle Children’s listened and did the right thing. I still hold them as the example for all hospitals to follow. They spend $2 million every year on building up the infrastructure for those cycling and walking to their campus. The same walkways that benefit their employees also benefit their patients and patient families. And they make these contributions to the neighborhood proudly, it adds to their good relationship with the surrounding neighbors.
I say we have a lot to learn from the folks in Seattle, about how they were so successful. I feel like they must know something we don’t know, or have a mandate for preservation of neighborhoods much stronger than we have here in Portland.
. . .
Update to the Annual Community Meeting:
Please take a look at this slide show prepared by Jim Parker, Laurelhurst representative to Transportation Working Group, a subcommittee of the Good Neighbor Agreement Standing Committee. Somehow there was an error and the slides Jim submitted for the audiovisual portion of his presentation were not the ones available at the time of the meeting.
My dream about Slide #3 is that we could also see how many patient visits there are to campus. I don’t know if the City of Portland includes those numbers in their total data for the number of cars driving on the surface streets to Providence Hospital for outpatient treatment, a number that continues to grow. I recall from looking at the Conditional Use Master Plan, there were no estimates of patient trips.