Wednesday, May 27, 2015 12:00 AM

Getting charged up about cleaner air

The San Joaquin Valley Air basin historically has been among the most polluted in the nation with an average of 153 unhealthy ozone days a year in the late 1990s through 2005. While the air has become much cleaner with fewer particulates and lower ozone levels the last decade, the Valley still has pockets of intense pollution – last year, Clovis tied for second most bad ozone days in the nation. Community Regional Medical Center is doing its part to improve the Valley’s air quality by installing a total of 12 free, electric-car charging stations for employees and doctors at three of its hospitals. More are planned for the future.

Kevin Barcelos, RN, informatics and education manager at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital, uses a charging station in the hospital’s parking lot.

When polled about ideas for promoting “greener commuting” habits, many employees said they either owned all-electric cars or would seriously consider buying one if they had a place at work to recharge it. Kevin Barcelos, RN, bought a plug-in Fiat when he found out he could charge his commuter car at work.

“I have a friend that works for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board so I knew there were incentives for driving an electric and I knew how it would help the air,” said Barcelos, manager of informatics and education at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital. He drives 60 to 100 mile a week between Community’s hospitals to meetings and trainings on Community’s electronic medical records system.

In California, where electricity is produced by a combination of renewable sources, nuclear, gas and hydroelectric plants, an electric car releases the same amount of greenhouse gasses as a gasoline-powered car getting 95 miles per gallon, according to a June 2014 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. And other studies show that even when electric cars are pulling their electricity from a gas-fired plant it produces up to 60 percent less ozone and particulates than a car with an internal combustion engine.

Community employees are working in other ways to create a smaller carbon footprint, forming a volunteer team to improve recycling habits in the workplace, install more bike racks, host bike to work events, and encourage carpooling through an intranet meet up board. Recently medical residents in University of California, San Francisco's Fresno program put together a public service video urging drivers to “Turn the key and be idle free” to decrease air pollution. They remind residents that 10 minutes of idling your car can produce a pound of carbon dioxide that others have to breathe.

“This is just another way our employees and doctors are living our mission of improving the health of our greater community,” said Wanda Holderman, CEO of Fresno Heart & Surgical and leader of Community’s corporate-wide sustainability team, which looks for ways to recycle, reuse or reduce material used in Community’s hospitals.

Erin Kennedy reported this story. Reach her at MedWatchToday@communitymedical.org