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John Drigot is the new sustainability coordinator for UC Health

John Drigot is the new sustainability coordinator for UC Health.

As a rafting guide on the Colorado River in the 1980s, John Drigot got a first-hand view of the finite water resources in the West.

So when Drigot, the new sustainability coordinator at Poudre Valley Hospital, helped save 1.3 million gallons of irrigation water at PVH despite hotter and drier conditions than last year, he knew the value of that conservation.

Now that water flow’s down at PVH, Drigot’s fired up to champion more green measures that will reduce the hospital’s environmental footprint while saving patients money.

“It’s all about lowering the cost of health care today, so it’s good that we’re forced to become more efficient,” said Drigot, who joined University of Colorado Health in northern Colorado this year as a contractor after working previously for Neenan Company as a sustainability coordinator and LEED specialist.

His next projects: Replacing the hospitals’ T12 fluorescent bulbs with more-efficient bulbs, and crafting the system’s first Environmental Mission Statement and Sustainability Management Plan.

Important goal

Sustainability, achieved through environmental greenness, is an important goal for University of Colorado Health in northern Colorado. Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland was built with a green focus, and 2009 the hospital was the largest in the country and the first in Colorado to receive LEED Gold Certification, the building industry’s highest honor green projects.

In addition to financial savings—MCR uses about 35 percent less energy than a hospital of the same size, for instance—there is a patient-care upside to greening up. National studies have been investigating what seems to be a link between the quality of green health-care facilities and therapeutic outcomes.

“We’re extremely proud of our accomplishments in constructing an environmentally sound hospital,” said George Hayes, MCR’s president and CEO. “We’ve continued to make green a priority and it’s paid off in terms of dollars, enhancing patient and employee attitudes, and heightening our reputation as a high-quality provider of medical services.”

Another upside to going greener is employee engagement. PVH employees, for instance, started a Green Team in April 2007 to help develop and maintain recycling and other environmentally friendly programs at the hospital. The Green Team concept spread to Family Medicine Center, Harmony Campus and other off-campus sites, and now there’s a 100-member team with a 10-member steering committee, all passionate about environmental stewardship.

Recycling was an early focus of the Green Team. Now there are recycling bins in PVH’s Café 1024 and, among other advances, a successful office paper and newspaper recycling effort underway. MCR has had similar endeavors in place since its 2007 opening.

“We’re trying to get employees involved in understanding how they can help the hospital be more green,” said Bea Bryant, an early member of the Green Team and an administrative assistant in PVH’s environmental health department. “Making them better stewards of our environment will help us contain rising health-care costs.”

Added Drigot: “Having eco-friendly values shows the community what an organization stands for.”

Susan Skog is a freelance writer in northern Colorado.

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Saturday is Drug Take-Back Day, a Drug Enforcement Administration event that began in 2010. It’s a chance for the public to safely dispose of unused prescription drugs; the event’s web site lists a number of area drop-off locations.

English: The Seal of the Drug Enforcement Admi...

Drug Enforcement Administration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to today’s Fort Collins Coloradoan, the DEA collects the discarded pills, patches and elixirs, trucking them to a $200 million incinerator in the high desert of northwestern Utah, where they’re destroyed at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit under intensely secure conditions.

It’s a perfect opportunity to explain how Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies dispose of unused or discarded pharmaceuticals to keep virtually all of it out of the trash or drain.

PVH and MCR pharmacists routinely go through medications, pulling and setting aside pharmaceuticals that are expired or can’t be used for various reasons.

Once a quarter, a company called EXP Pharmaceutical Services picks up the unused drugs and take them to EXP facilities for processing; EXP incinerates the medications or sends them back to manufacturers.

Another company, Clean Harbors, comes to PVH and MCR every week to pick up more-hazardous substances.

“Very little gets into the trash or down the drain,” said Rodney Good, director of pharmacy services at Medical Center of the Rockies.

When the state of Colorado inspected MCR a few years ago, Good said, it was only one of two hospitals in state with no deficiencies related to how it disposes of hazardous materials.

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By Kevin Unger, president and CEO, Poudre Valley Hospital

Poudre Valley Hospital, Circa 1925

The original Poudre Valley Hospital opened in 1925 with majestic white pillars standing along the building’s front. The pillars were removed years later during an expansion of the structure.

During the next three years, community members in Fort Collins will see a lot of construction activity at Poudre Valley Hospital.

We’re in the initial stages of developing a plan to remove the oldest section of the building. The section is near the corner of Lemay Avenue and Doctors Lane.

The section will be replaced with a two-story, 113,000-square-foot building that will allow us to maintain our high level of services for the community and expand the capabilities of our:

This project—the new building—will greatly benefit patients as well as Fort Collins primary care doctors, Fort Collins pediatricians and other specialists, as well as Loveland doctors and Greeley doctors who have privileges to practice in the hospital.

This has been a long time in coming. The PVH 19-acre site is landlocked by neighborhoods and businesses. Because of this, we’ve always had to identify other ways to increase services rather than expanding on the hospital’s site.

Growth, aging building drive project

Poudre Valley Hospital "A" Building

By 2012, the original hospital had been absorbed by 17 major additions that resulted in the 700,000-square-foot Poudre Valley Hospital and the so-called “A” Building, above.

In the late 1990s, we built the Harmony Campus to accommodate outpatient services while inpatient care remained at PVHS. In 2007, the Medical Center of the Rockies opened to further expand services and add new ones.

However, we’ve reached the critical juncture where the issues of age and expansion needs have collided.

With northern Colorado’s rapid growth, we’ll be in a tight pinch if we sit back and do nothing at PVH. The new building will solve many space issues and expansion needs for years to come.

The oldest part of the existing building dates back to 1925 and includes the original hospital and other areas that are at least a half-century old. Since the original hospital opened, PVH has undergone 17 major additions, transforming the hospital into today’s 700,000-square foot megalith.

We’ve talked for more than 20 years about tearing down and replace the oldest section. This project has been an annual discussion—and over the years some long-time employees have jested that they wondered whether the old section would outlive them.

During the last three decades, the oldest section was fully occupied by non-clinical services. Then, many employees moved across Lemay into the new Westbridge Building that opened three years ago. Now, about 100 employees remain in the oldest section; they will be moved to elsewhere in PVH or off-site locations.

The oldest section is rapidly deteriorating. The foundation has settled and sags. Ancient clay pipes crack. The old walls creak and moan in the wind.

Some employees — this is one of my favorites — claim ghosts haunt the dismal basement, where the morgue was formerly located.

This oldest section demands $1 million a year in upkeep, far from a sound investment considering the building’s decrepit condition.

In April, our board of directors approved a master plan that calls for the demolition and replacement of the oldest section. The first phase will develop the plan for the demolition and relocation of employees currently housed in the section.

What’s next?

Demolition is expected to get underway 2013. The new building is targeted to be completed in 2015.

Tearing down the oldest section might sound easy: Bring in a tall crane with a huge wrecking ball, and, like magic, there sits a big pile of bricks, mortar and rubble ready to be carted away.

But there’s a tough issue: Asbestos was tucked behind the walls prior to 1989 when the EPA banned the use of the toxic substance. The asbestos is harmless as long as walls aren’t breached and asbestos disturbed. Removal will require workers garbed in special asbestos-proof clothing. Federal inspectors will monitor the removal and disposal.

PVH has come a long way since the original hospital was opened 87 years ago. Back then, the tiny hospital stood out by itself, surrounded by corn and beet fields. Cows wandered by. Patients closed windows to keep out the malodorous aroma.

Yes, times have changed, for the better, and, with this new endeavor, we’ll be able to maintain our high-level of services for the community.

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With all the national news going on about healthcare reform and the resulting impacts on patient care and the healthcare industry, I’d like to offer you a brief primer on an important two-part strategy that I think businesses—particularly those in health care—could use to improve their services, quality and bottom line.

The first part of the strategy is simple: listening to employees.

Yes, listening seems simple enough. But for some businesses it’s not so easy to accomplish.

Unfortunately, some companies may feel like they don’t have the time or resources to listen.

Or, among other reasons for not listening, some businesses may already be successful and make the fatal mistake of feeling so secure that they believe the way things are done now to be successful will be the same things to be done in the future.

My opinion is this: Employees are the experts on their own work and they’re the ones who know best where improvements should be made.

There are all sorts of great ideas, suggestions and feedback that employees can offer as far as how to improve patient care, customer service, working with clients and suppliers, and, for that matter, interaction with each other; and how to keep costs lower while ensuring quality.

At Poudre Valley Health System, we have found that listening has helped us enhance our quality of care and work; helped keep staff members more engaged because they know their feedback makes a meaningful difference; and provided ways to shave away on unnecessary expenses without compromising quality.

There are many ways we listen to our 5,200 employees. Here are four examples:

  • Members of senior leadership do rounding through the departments and patient care units to talk to employees, volunteers, physicians, and patients and their families.
  • We conduct quarterly employee forums where we give updates on health system issues and have time to answer questions from staff members.
  • We maintain an open door policy. Members of leadership encourage employees, volunteers and physicians to contact them if they have issues to discuss.
  • Using focus groups, surveys and personal discussions, we ask employees about what keeps them engaged in their work.

On a personal note, I tell employees to call me at home (970.204.0951) if they want to discuss an issue and can’t reach me during work hours. I also ask them to contact me if they find that PVHS isn’t the best place they’ve ever worked.

Our most formal listening method is an extremely important annual culture survey that we encourage every employee to take. The names of employees who take the survey are kept anonymous. Results are tabulated by a private surveying company, thereby ensuring that those who completed the survey cannot be identified.

The employee completion rate for the survey was 82 percent in 2009 and 84 percent in 2010. We just started the 2011 survey; it continues through October 12. This year our goal is at least 80 percent, but we’re hoping for nearly 100 percent participation.

The questions cover a wide range of themes: communication, team work, resources, how well supervisors and senior management leaders are performing, opportunities for continued education, cooperation across departmental lines, and others.

The survey asks 75 questions, has a section where an employee can write in comments, and takes less than 15 minutes to complete online through our employee intranet. The survey is available in English and Spanish.

Meanwhile, the second part of our strategy involves acting upon what we hear from listening.

Here is where many organizations may come up short. Action can be tougher than listening because action might require expenditures of cash and employee time. It also may take a lot of complex planning, formation of committees, extensive discussion, monitoring, feedback, revising, and honing.

Here’s what we do:

The roundings, the forums, the open door policy, and other listening methods often turn up low-hanging fruit (as the ol’ cliché goes) where improvements can be easily made.

Larger issues turn up sometimes, too, where a more extensive effort needs to be made to improve work processes.

In those cases, we follow a formal method of process improvement where we create a plan based upon the outcome of our research on what a process currently is and ideas on how it could be improved. We develop, initiate and monitor a pilot project as a test; then, we check what we’ve done; and, if all seems correct, we act by deploying the improvement process. We call this process PDCA—plan, do, check, act.

For the culture survey, we use the employee feedback to identity areas where improvements in work or processes can be made in each department and work area, as well as throughout the health system.

We then develop action plans for improvements; sometimes, if needed, we initiate the PDCA process. Employees are encouraged to participate in the development of the action plans for their areas. Last year more than 300 action plans were developed.

All of this listening and follow-up action has helped us make some remarkable strides forward. Employees have become more engaged in their work and the care they provide. We have a more efficient organization and our quality is higher.

I feel like we’ve become a more compassionate, caring and successful organization because we listen to employees and act upon what we hear.

Rulon

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PVHS is thrilled to be listed again this year as one of the Top 100 places to work in healthcare.  I often get asked what makes working at PVHS better than employment at other organizations.

There are lots of reasons, but none better than our grill days.

The grill days started out as times when members of our Senior Management Team would come in and grill burgers for employees.  It was a great opportunity to talk to employees, find out if we were meeting their needs, and make sure this was the best job they had every had!

George Hayes and Team!!

Over time…in the spirit of continual improvement…we started to let the professionals cook, and we just served!  Everyone was happier…and we still got a chance to interact and make sure we were doing everything we could to provide the best place to work.

MCR Employees at Grill Day

Our most recent grill days were September 15 at Medical Center of the Rockies and September 16 at the Greeley Medical Clinic…and a great time was had by all!

We always hold Grill Days at multiple sites throughout PVHS so we can reach as many staff members as possible. We’re looking forward to our next grill days: September 23 at the PVHS Harmony Campus and September 30 at Poudre Valley Hospital.

Grill Day Bingo!!

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The president and chairman of the board of directors for North Colorado Medical Center, Inc., published a guest editorial in mid-July in northern Colorado newspapers saying Poudre Valley Health System plans to build a hospital in west Greeley.

I’d like to make sure community members have the correct information.

The fact is that PVHS has never even discussed the possibility of building a hospital in west Greeley or anywhere in Weld County. We agree with the chairman’s assertion that such duplication often serves only to increase healthcare costs.

However, I can’t believe that Banner Health System—the Phoenix-headquartered organization that manages NCMC and owns McKee Medical Center in Loveland—is overly concerned about duplication because it has announced plans to build a third hospital in Morgan County.

As the largest locally controlled provider of healthcare throughout northern Colorado, PVHS is committed to ensure that our internationally recognized patient-care services remain both accessible and affordable to you.

For that reason, we will continue to work with physicians you have grown to know and trust in Loveland, Fort Collins, Windsor, or at the Greeley Medical Clinic in Weld County to explore innovative ways to provide state-of-the-art care close to the homes of community members.

The PVHS goal is for regional neighbors in the healthcare profession to work collaboratively so collectively we focus on what’s right for patients and physicians. We will continue to work with regional and local providers wherever possible.

The road has been less smooth at times than we would like. Since formalizing our relationship with the Greeley Medical Clinic we’ve endeavored to use existing medical services in Weld County, even if those services were part of another health system.

Unfortunately, our options were limited a year ago when NCMC leadership elected to deny access to the hospital to specialists working with GMC. Regardless, GMC and PVHS are committed to finding every way possible to meet the medical needs of residents of Greeley, Windsor, and the rest of Weld County, as well as Larimer County and elsewhere in our region, with our outstanding clinical care.

Our joint plan for growth in Frederick with Longmont United Hospital and our recent management agreement with the hospital in Sidney, Neb., are two recent examples of collaboration to ensure local control to keep quality high and costs low. Additionally, our impending affiliation with University of Colorado Hospital will ensure the PVHS tradition of world-class quality continues side by side with UCH’s world-class research and education.

Inaccurate assumptions and conclusions as were displayed in the most recent guest editorial serve only to confuse community members and erode the reputations of PVHS; McKee Medical Center, Medical Center of the Rockies, Loveland; Poudre Valley Hospital, Fort Collins; and NCMC. If my actions in the past have contributed to this inaccuracy, I want to apologize for the confusion.

Northern Colorado residents are fortunate because we have excellent hospitals in PVH, MCR, NCMC, and McKee. Like MCR and PVH, NCMC is a Magnet hospital for nursing excellence, a distinction enjoyed by only a small percentage of U.S. hospitals.

We also have access to the foremost in new technology, such as the TrueBeam STx linear accelerator PVHS is now installing and will be treating cancer patients with in the very near future.

As PVHS works to enhance services offered by our two hospitals—MCR and PVH—we have opened new clinics and affiliated with existing ones to maximize quality while creating efficiencies to keep costs down.

Such efforts are crucial as we work to address national healthcare reform. Organizations must work together to be more efficient and undergo a fundamental shift from the current model of treating patients in hospitals to keeping patients healthy so they remain out of hospitals.

I hope all of us in the northern Colorado healthcare community will be better able to work collaboratively as we address the constantly changing healthcare environment.

I encourage you to stay in touch with PVHS by reading http://www.pvhs.org and my blog (visionary.pvhs.org). Please offer your thoughts on what we do well and where you think we can improve. With all of us working together, I am confident we will better meet your healthcare needs.

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Recently I was at a meeting and learned what the staff members at our new Caribou office (home to the Poudre Valley Health System Center for Performance Excellence, the best Baldrige consultants in the country!) … were doing for lunch.  Very cool.

Salad Garden at Caribou Office

They have a garden growing outside of the office.  At lunch or when they need a snack, they have the ready fixings for a healthy alternative.  Thanks to the folks at that office for taking a lead in making a difference in their health!

Salad table for the picking! :)

 
So next time you think of a healthy alternative for lunch take a tip from the people at Caribou…and grow your own.  What a good idea! Great job!
 
Rulon

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