UHS recognizes the need to protect the natural environment as well as serve patients and the communities in which we operate. Keeping our surroundings clean and minimizing pollution is of benefit to all. We are committed to following best practices when managing our energy usage and consumption, and disposing of waste. Stewardship continues to play an important role in our commitment to a clean environment and strong communities.
Read more about our commitment and progress related to important environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics in our most recent Annual Report →
Energy Star® Certification
We continued work on the UHS Corporate Energy Efficiency Initiative, which was launched in 2017. UHS invested $6.49 million toward LED lighting upgrades and optimization of our large heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems during the year.
The projects implemented during 2020 are projected to save 12.36 million kWh of electricity and 171,862 therms of natural gas annually, resulting in 9,648 metric tons of CO2 emission reduction. This equates to:
- 2,084 passenger vehicles removed from the road (or 23.94 million fewer miles driven by an average passenger vehicle) OR
- 10.6 million pounds less coal burned OR
- 1,633 homes’ electricity use for one year
UHS continued installing and successfully implementing smart analytics faults detection and diagnostics systems in large HVAC systems. This technology will help UHS to proactively identify, prioritize and address critical HVAC system components’ failure and faults, per their energy savings potential.
LEED/Green Globes Certification
Originally, UHS obtained verification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in five of our six Las Vegas area hospitals inclusive of subsequent expansions where applicable. Subsequently, we have applied for certification under the science-based Green Globes rating system, which traces its origins to the European green building standard, Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM). This action supports our focus on systematic annual increases in overall energy efficiency while improving our activities in the operation and maintenance of our facilities.
Such higher efficiencies have proven particularly welcome during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the need for additional powered equipment to implement specific safety protocols. In the end, we registered slightly increased usage compared to the previous year.
Furthermore, the Green Globes system includes wellness elements, which demonstrate our commitment to not only operate sustainable buildings but also provide enhanced environments for our patients and their families, physicians and employees.
At the end of 2020:
- Five Green Globes certifications were earned
- A sixth for a newly constructed tower is in progress.
Uncompromised Culinary and Nutrition Standards
The Culinary and Nutrition Department is part of our Corporate Supply Chain structure and is comprised of Licensed Registered Dietitians and Accredited Chefs. In 2020, we continued our Food as Healing Fuel integrated approach. Even during the disruptions and initial uncertainty of the pandemic, we retained that focus.
Our team maintained a strong throughput of products during the three pandemic waves, for the sake of our patients’ well-being and satisfaction. This became increasingly challenging as manufacturers temporarily shut down, reduced production, and even went out of business. Compounding this were the difficulties our distributors had in securing product, let alone getting our diminished allocations delivered to our facilities.
We saw food deliveries fall to 78% of order volume during April. To compensate for this, we utilized our Managed Order Guides to fill in any available products that met our nutritional and price point goals. We sought out alternative vendors and sources. Doing this required daily conversations, negotiations, contractual re-evaluation and collaborating to keep the flow of food and disposables stable. By August, despite the peak of the second wave, appropriate product fill rates climbed to 88%. By October, they returned to the normal 98%. No facility went without what they needed, albeit, in some cases in different packaging.
During the various stages of the pandemic, we also experienced unusual price escalation when supplies were limited. When there was something available, price escalated and supply was limited. Despite this, we were able to keep our food costs for our Behavioral Health Division flat after considering for inflation. In the Acute Care Division, we focused on patient menus and meals for our dedicated staff. Because of the decrease in typical customer retail traffic, their hospital cafeterias, catering and food expenses were abnormally lower for 2020. Across both divisions, keeping the focus on Contract Compliance and Purchasing Program Maximizations helped significantly stabilize expenses.
The pandemic did not prevent Culinary and Nutrition from meeting other commitments. We were able to assist UHS Supply Chain as a whole to source non-traditional products. We also fulfilled digital software implementations and worked with the UHS Design & Construction team on eight new or rejuvenated partnerships.
Improved Environmental Services
UHS Environmental Services was more critical and visible due to COVID-19. Our dedicated teams continued to improve and innovate the manner in which we clean and provide safe environments for our patients, staff and visitors.
During the year, we expanded the use of Adenosine Triphosphate testing in patient and sterile areas to improve the depth of inspections beyond visual as well as increased treatments in UV cleaning.
Our teams across our facilities moved to digital/cloud-based inspection tools, resulting in:
- Significant reduction and, in many cases, elimination of the need for paper-based inspections.
- Significant reduction of paper usage has occurred in changing these processes while improving our ability to collect data and document results faster.
Our facilities have significantly reduced the use of floor waxes and are instead applying environmentally safer floor finishes, eliminating the need for caustic floor stripping products while expanding use of safer floor care products within our facilities.
Responsible Pharmaceutical Waste Management
Proper disposal of pharmaceutical waste, controlled substance waste, and ensuring regulatory compliance continue to be the foundational components of the UHS Pharmaceutical Waste Management Program.
The use of Drug Enforcement Agency and Environmental Protection Agency compliant disposal containers prevent diversion of controlled substances and prevent pharmaceutical waste from entering our environment.
In 2020, UHS closely monitored COVID-19 vaccine development and state-specific distribution plans in order to manage the influx of sharps and waste from vaccinations. Preparation and planning efforts focused on adequate inventory levels of reusable sharps containers and frequency of pickups by our pharmaceutical waste vendor in order to accommodate the additional waste generated at our facilities.
Proper disposal of pharmaceutical and controlled substance waste generated at our hospitals supports the safety of our patients and employees while protecting the environment in the communities we serve.
Reprocessing and Waste Diversion
Through reprocessing and remanufacturing efforts with our business partners, UHS is able to minimize its environmental impact utilizing key sustainability programs. UHS Acute Care facilities work with vendors to collect identified products, and participate in sustainable and environmentally friendly practices resulting in waste diversion. These vendors break down collected products into recyclable components keeping them out of the waste stream.
- In 2020, our Acute Care Division was able to divert 116,940 pounds of waste through collection of 429,862 individual items.
- Through participation in one vendor’s recycling program, 274 trees were planted on behalf of UHS through the National Forest Foundation.
UHS has been participating in reprocessing and remanufacturing programs for over 18 years.
Uncompensated Care (Charity Care and Uninsured Discounts)
Our commitment to corporate social responsibility is evident across the company in a number of ways, including the care that we provide to patients and their families, regardless of their ability to pay.
Generally, patients treated at our hospitals for non-elective services, who have gross income less than 200% to 400% of the federal poverty guidelines, are deemed eligible for charity care. The federal poverty guidelines are established by the federal government and are based on income and family size.
Based on charges at established rates, for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, UHS Acute Care hospitals have recorded increasing uncompensated care, reflected as the sum of charity care and uninsured discounts:
|Total uncompensated care||$2,201,138||100%||$2,184,064||100%||$1,894,594||100%|
NOTE: Data reported is in thousands, for the UHS Acute Care division hospitals only.