Hackensack University Medical Center
Hackensack University Medical Center (HackensackUMC) is a nonprofit academic, research and medical center. Located in Bergen County, New Jersey – just a few miles from New York City – it is New Jersey’s largest provider of both inpatient and outpatient services.
The hospital is one of Bergen County’s largest employers, with a work force of more than 7,600 employees, including more than 1,600 physicians and dentists representing the full spectrum of medical specialties and subspecialties. It was rated the top hospital in New Jersey, and among the top four New York Metro Area hospitals by U.S. News & World Report in its 2015-16 Best Hospitals list. The medical center has also been named as one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals by Healthgrades – the only hospital in the New Jersey-New York-New England region to win the award nine years in a row.
HackensackUMC also has a special distinction within the ASBC community: It was the first hospital to join ASBC as a member.
“It is our obligation as public health professionals to evolve with the changing healthcare landscape while staying true to our core principals of putting our patients’ best interests first. Embracing sustainability is integral to that effort,” said Robert C. Garrett, president and CEO of the Hackensack University Health Network, in a statement announcing its membership.
HackensackUMC began its journey towards environmental health and sustainability more than a decade ago with the help of Deirdre Imus. In 2001, HackensackUMC was one of the first hospitals in the country to implement safer chemicals initiatives like green cleaning practices, beginning with the Greening The Cleaning® program, which promotes the use of nontoxic cleaning products. These efforts also helped pass “Green Cleaning” Executive Orders in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as related legislation in 10 states.
In 2005, with the design and construction of one of the first green hospitals in the country, the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, was named one of America’s Top Green Hospitals by National Geographic’s The Green Guide. Recently, HackensackUMC earned Practice Greenhealth’s highest honor as a 2015 Environmental Excellence Award winner, earning recognition for the second year in a row, as one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country. They were also honored for outstanding performance in healthcare sustainability in the areas of Leadership, Chemicals, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing and Climate Change.
While most people probably do not think of hospitals as heavily engaged in public policy, HackensackUMC took a leading role in promoting legislation surrounding the Affordable Care Act. One provision of that law penalizes hospitals when patients who received treatment for an ailment return for additional care within 30 days after being discharged. Essentially, the goal is to ensure hospitals get patient care right the first time.
What HackensackUMC realized was that care needed to be taken a step further and extended into the home to help patients and families manage the recovery process. That meant helping to author and support the CARE Act, which took effect in May; the law takes into account the vital role of caregivers by providing them with resources, training and information to ensure that patients’ discharge plans are carried out successfully and hospital readmissions stay low, saving patients and insurers money and keeping costs down.
Since the medical center focuses on wellness and preventing patients from having to come in to the hospital to begin with, it makes sense that they would want to address issues such as safer chemicals (through reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act) and climate change. These issues can pose a number of health risks, especially to older or more vulnerable populations. That is why HackensackUMC is working to identify, control, and ultimately prevent toxic exposures in the environment that threaten community health – because they know healthcare isn’t just about treating illnesses, but about avoiding the things that cause them.
Ultimately, that kind of action needs to come from policymakers, and having a healthcare leader like HackensackUMC making the case for these issues is sure to push our economy in a more sustainable direction.