A "green" hospital

March 14, 2008 8:38:46 PM PDT
When a hospital plans a new building, improved care for patients is always top priority. At Lehigh Valley Hospital, good care for the environment is pretty important too.

Dr. Elliot Sussman, the CEO of Lehigh Valley Hospital, says there was one key to planning the new building at the Cedar Crest Campus. "The goal was to provide an environment for both our patients and staff that makes healing easier."

The first thing a visitor notices about the Kasych Family Pavilion is the amount of light.

All 182 patient rooms have windows - and so do staff rooms and offices.

Brian Hardner, the vice-president of facilities, explains, " 90 per cent of the rooms and spaces that are occupied by staff have access to natural light."

That doesn't just cut electric usage, studies show natural light speeds healing, compared to traditional fluorescent lights.

Toilets are water-saving... The white coating on the roof cost more, but pay for itself in energy savings within a few years.

And from top to bottom, materials in this building are recyclable.

Says Hardner, "The flooring, the wallcovering, the roofing, the steel - even the pre-cast concrete panels on the outside of the building are recyclable."

One thing missing is that "new building smell," and that's good!

That's a sign that wall panels and laminated surfaces won't give off gases like formaldehyde.

The new pavilion was designed by literally hundreds of people. Doctors, nurses, and technicians got to visit mockups of the new rooms, to fine-tune the best spots for outlets, switches, and furniture.

Community members also had the chance to visit, and give their thoughts.

Dr. Sussman says, "You talk to your patients, and their families, and find out - what do they need when they're in a hospital? What works, what doesn't work?"

Hardner adds, "We had a lot of input from the staff. They had a lot of good ideas."

Ideas like ceiling lifts for moving patients.

Especially as Americans get larger, the lifts are safer for patients, and spare workers from injuries.

And sleeper sofas so loved ones can be close by.

The whole idea is to lower stress all around.

As Hardner says, "Make it more lively, more comfortable, more soothing."