The email is from Jeffrey Thompson, CEO of Gundersen Health System in Wisconsin, to everyone in the system.
Today we will make a big announcement about our energy program. We are accomplishing something no one else in healthcare has done. This is really a big deal around the country. This is a common theme for us, but others are amazed. The point of this note is to help you understand the why and the how so it is easier for you to understand how it fits into our mission and easier for you to answer questions.
The accomplishment is we have had several days where we produce more energy than we use. October 14th was the first day that we hit this mark. This means instead of paying millions in natural gas and electric bills we are producing our own. We will extend this to many more days, then weeks, then months. We are using natural gas from landfills and cows, hardwood chips from local sawmills, wind, geothermal wells, and very importantly, conservation.
Why we embarked on this journey has many parts. We believed:· it will decrease the pollution we were producing that adds to the health burden of our region and nation,
· it will save the organization money that can be spent on patient care, staff salaries, or used to keep our prices down,
· it will boost our local economy, instead of coal from Wyoming (for electricity) and natural gas from Texas ( for heat) – what we do spend is on local sources
· it helps define us as an organization, a strong corporate citizen, concerned about the broad health and well-being of our region; both physical and economic health.
Where did the money come from to do all this? Funding for our conservation projects came out of our regular operating funds. And it was a great bargain. We spent $2 million dollars one time on conservation and reduced our energy costs by $1.2 million every year after; a much better return than any of our personal saving accounts or checkbooks. For other big projects we took money out of savings, not the salary or benefit pool, and used it to invest in these long term projects. Because of our timing and innovation we also received 11 million in state and federal money that would have gone somewhere else in the country if we had not won it.
The effects of this work (in addition to saving money, decreasing pollution and boosting the local economy) has been increased staff pride, enhanced recruiting, community inspiration, as well as national and international recognition for Gundersen and La Crosse.
Has this effort decreased our other important objectives? The best data would say our quality, service, and financial health is as good as it has ever been.
Are we done? Not yet. There is still plenty of waste you can help us decrease. We also have many opportunities to expand our sustainability and waste management programs. Beyond that, it is to help other staff and other communities understand, that a great healthcare organization needs to take care of patients, their families, and our whole community, and that is what we are trying to do every day .