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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Charleston VA leader in environmental excellence

Charleston VA Chief of Safety and GEMS Program Manager hold the Practice Greenhealth Award in Environmental Excellence

Chief of Safety Jaconda Lightburn and GEMS Program Manager Alicia Fletcher accept the Practice Greenhealth Award in Environmental Excellence on behalf of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. Photo by James Arrowood.

By Lanelle W. Strawder, MA, Public Affairs Specialist
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center was recently named as one of the top 25 Environmental Excellence Award winners by Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to environ­mental sustainability in health care. Practice Greenhealth recognizes U.S. health care facilities that exemplify the highest standards in envi­ronmental practices.

In a press release, Executive Director for Practice Greenhealth Paul Bogart stated, “Each year, we see more healthcare facilities recognizing the link between environmental responsibility and health—and these 25 hospitals are setting the bar for environmental performance in health care. These leading hospitals continue to innovate on ways to protect and promote health through more environmentally responsible practices—and we’re excited to recognize their efforts as models for the sector.”

Charleston VAMC is new to the top 25 and made a mark this year because of our strong focus on chemical avoidance and energy use. The facility also earned four Circle of Excellence Awards in the Less Waste, Chemical, Climate Change and Energy categories. In the past year, Charleston VAMC has reduced hazardous chemical purchases by 36 percent. And with the installation of smart sinks in the pharma­cy, operating rooms and other acute patient care areas, Charleston VA has become as a model for other VAMCs looking for methods to sustainably dispose of waste. In 2016, Charleston’s diverted 56 percent of its waste from landfills was 56 percent, and reduced regulated medical waste by 21 tons.

Chief of Safety Jaconda Lightburn and GEMS Manager Alicia Fletcher have been in­strumental in leading the facility’s sustainabil­ity efforts. In May, Lightburn and Fletcher traveled to the CleanMed 2017 Conference and Exhibition to accept five awards on the facility’s behalf.

“So many environmental efforts have lead up to this prestigious honor,” says Lightburn. “These awards are a true reflection and testa­ment of the collective teamwork that is em­bodied by all our Charleston staff.”

But the GEMS team hasn’t done it alone. Employees from across the medical center have taken sustainability to heart by participating in more efficient ways to get to work. As of the spring of this year, 178 Charleston VAMC employees carpooled to work, 134 participated in a vanpool, and 35 employ­ees regularly take public transportation for their commutes to serve area Veterans.

In total, VA facilities across the nation earned more than 180 sustainability honors for their efforts in environmental sustainability. Charleston VA received five awards and was the only VA facility to win the Circle of Excellence for Less Waste. With your help, Charleston VA will continue to lead the way toward a healthier, more sustainable health care system.


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