Kaiser Permanente, which has been on the leading edge of the "green hospital" movement, said Tuesday it will begin pressuring its suppliers to be better stewards of the environment and public health.
As part of a sweeping new environmental initiative, the health care giant will require vendors to disclose environmental data on a host of products — from bandages to hospital beds, from syringes to oxygen monitors — to help promote a healthier environment for patients and workers.
While hospitals aim to heal the sick, they aren't always the most healthy environments themselves – not with toxin-laced IV bags, allergy-causing gloves and other medical supplies that could potentially harm patients and the environment.
"Anything we can do to reduce the environmental contributors to disease," said Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente's environmental stewardship officer and its vice president for workplace safety.
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Nationwide, Kaiser Permanente spends more than $1 billion annually on medical equipment and supplies at its 35 medical centers and 430 other office buildings. In all, the health care system spends $14 billion on its annual purchases for medical products and day-to-day supplies such as food and cleaning products.
With billions of dollars in hospital spending at stake, Kaiser officials hope that other hospital systems will follow their lead and flex their purchasing muscles to help "green" the health care industry.
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