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EPA Agrees to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center Environmental Self-Audit

Release Date: 08/06/2003
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(#03091) New York, N.Y. – Taking advantage of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) innovative self-audit program, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center in New York City, will conduct a comprehensive environmental audit of its facilities. This agreement covers 53 buildings located throughout its two main campuses and numerous other owned or affiliated operations. In exchange for the self audit, EPA will reduce or waive penalties for violations discovered and corrected.

“This agreement will benefit the environment, the hospital and its patients,” said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. “By reviewing its environmental practices, Bronx-Lebanon will ensure that it is being a good environmental steward and a good neighbor.”

“We at Bronx-Lebanon have continually strived for and achieved excellence,” stated Miguel A. Fuentes Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. “This agreement will enable us to further extend our healthcare leadership position into the environmental area as well as, most importantly, reinforce Bronx-Lebanon’s essential role as an economic anchor and an engine for positive change in the community.”

The agreement continues EPA’s regional initiative to help hospitals comply with environmental regulations. Under the agreement, signed July 15 by EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny; Sheldon Ortsman, Vice President, Operations/Human Resources; Bruce Peckman, Senior Vice President, Ambulatory/Managed Care & Regulatory Services; and Octavio Marin, Vice President & Executive Director, Bronx-Lebanon Special Care Center; Bronx-Lebanon is undertaking a comprehensive environmental audit. It will self-report any violations, correct deficiencies in its environmental management processes and take steps to prevent further recurrence of violations. The audit began last week, and the hospital will submit three disclosure reports to EPA between October 15 and November 30, 2003. Wherever possible, Bronx- Lebanon will correct discovered violations within 60 days of discovery. EPA has agreed to waive the portions of any “gravity-based penalties,” those that are dependent on the seriousness of the violations, for self-disclosed violations.

The agreement covers all major federal environmental programs including air, water, pesticides, solid and hazardous wastes, hazardous substances and chemicals, environmental response, emergency planning, community right-to-know and toxic substances control. It stems from EPA’s Healthcare Compliance Initiative to help hospitals comply with environmental regulations, which is part of a larger EPA Voluntary Audit Policy.

The Agency established the policy to encourage prompt disclosure and correction of environmental violations, safeguarding human health and the environment. Many hospitals were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws or had failed to implement effective compliance strategies. As part of the initiative, EPA sent letters to 480 hospitals in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and held free workshops to help hospitals comply. In addition, the Agency established a Web site that provides information about their duties under the law, and warned hospitals that EPA inspections of their facilities – with the risk of financial penalties – were imminent. Hospitals can take advantage of the Agency’s Voluntary Audit Policy, through which they can investigate and disclose environmental violations to EPA and, as a compliance incentive, receive a partial or complete reduction in financial penalties.

This is EPA’s fifteenth self-audit agreement and the sixth with a hospital in this region. Agreements have been signed with Rutgers University, the State University of New York (SUNY), Syracuse University, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, The City University of New York (CUNY), Clarkson University, Canisius College, Pace University, Hofstra University, Winthrop University Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, New Island Hospital, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and Northern Westchester Hospital. Additional agreements are expected.

Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center is the largest voluntary, not-for-profit healthcare system serving the South and Central Bronx, with 833 beds at two major hospital divisions (the Concourse and Fulton) a specialized nursing facility for AIDS and geriatric patients; and an extensive “ BronxCare” network of more than 30 ambulatory medical practices throughout the community.