SOURCE: Health Care Without Harm

Health Care Without Harm

January 19, 2012 14:36 ET

Health Care Without Harm Calls Kaiser Permanente's Purchasing Change "A Huge Step Toward Making Health Care Healthier"

As Healthier Hospitals Initiative Co-Founder, Kaiser's Action Will Help Speed Health Care Sector Toward Sustainability

RESTON, VA--(Marketwire - Jan 19, 2012) - Kaiser Permanente took a huge step toward making health care healthier for patients and the environment, a leading public health advocacy organization, Health Care Without Harm, stated today in response to Kaiser Permanente's announcement that it has begun changes in its IV tubing and solution bags to ones made without chemicals suspected of causing illness in humans. Kaiser Permanente is a founding sponsor, along with Health Care Without Harm, of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, which uses the purchasing power of hospitals, among other catalysts, to speed the development of sustainability and environmental responsibility in the entire health care sector.

"Hospitals and health care providers like Kaiser Permanente are realizing they have a dual role in protecting the nation's health," stated Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm. "They need to provide the safest possible equipment and environment when treating patients, and they also have a responsibility to help reduce and eliminate environmental exposures that contribute to illness and disease."

Environmental exposures are linked to many of the nation's chronic illnesses such as asthma, heart and lung disease, cancer and diabetes. Currently, the nation spends 75 percent of its entire health care expenditures, or $1.3 trillion, to treat chronic illnesses.

Kaiser will buy IV solution bags that are 100 percent free of PVC and DEHP and intravenous tubing that is free of DEHP. The two chemicals are widely used in medical products and are suspected of leaching from the tubing into the tubing contents, and transmitted to the patient. DEHP, or di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, used to make plastic bags and tubing more pliable, has been linked to reproductive problems and other health effects. When PVC plastic is manufactured or incinerated, it creates dioxin pollution, a known carcinogen.

Plastic tubing is one of the most commonly used pieces of equipment in health care, with miles used each day in every health care facility. Kaiser's decision is expected to affect more than 100 tons of medical equipment.

"Kaiser's action's will be far-reaching and will help open the door to more hospitals to do the same," said Seema Wadhwa, director of the Healthier Hospital Initiative. "This is a direct outcome of last year's initiative supported by HHI and Practice Greenhealth for hospitals and their group purchasing organizations to begin asking about the content of products they use, and letting their suppliers know they will choose safer products."

Kaiser also reported that the safer equipment will save the organization more than $5 million each year. "When large systems like Kaiser use their purchasing power to order safer products, it lowers per-unit costs and makes these products more competitive," stated Cohen. "It's a win for both health consumers and providers."

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative is a three-year initiative created by seven hospital system founding sponsors, Practice Greenhealth, Health Care Without Harm, and the Center for Health Design, to help hospitals use their collective sustainability experience, purchasing power and industry representation to speed the process of greening the health care sector. Founding sponsors of HHI include Advocate Health Care, Catholic Healthcare West, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Inova Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Medstar Health, Partners HealthCare.

Health Care Without Harm is an international coalition of more than 500 organizations in 53 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH, see www.noharm.org.

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