Hospital to go totally smoke-free
OWENSBORO - Owensboro Mercy Health System plans to become a completely smoke-free hospital next year, its top executive says.
Greg Carlson, the hospital's president and chief executive officer, said reaching the goal in 13 months won't be easy, but the plan has the backing of other hospital officials.
"I asked the management team -- managers, directors and vice presidents, and that's 70 to 75 people -- is this the right thing to do? Unanimously, they said 'yes,'" Carlson said.
The first step in making OMHS a smoke-free campus is to begin more rigorously enforcing the rule that employees must smoke only in designated areas beginning in July. By January 2003, that enforcement will be extended to visitors and patients.
The final step will be to eliminate all smoking on hospital grounds, inside and out, by July next year.
Between now and then, the hospital will start a campaign to inform and educate everyone about the coming changes. A committee has been formed to coordinate the campaign.
"This is not a campaign against smokers," Carlson said. "It's an initiative to improve the health of our community, which is a big part of our mission."
About a third of the hospital's 2,500 employees smoke, said Janet Hayden, vice president for marketing and planning. Smoking-cessation classes will be available for anyone who wants to quit, she said.
Carlson said getting hospital employees to comply with the smoking ban will be easier than making visitors and patients adhere to it.
Sara Donahue, 19, of Owensboro would seem to bear that out. Donahue sat in the hospital's visitor parking garage last week, puffing on a cigarette. She was at the hospital to visit a relative who has heart disease.
"Everybody who smokes is going to smoke," Donahue said. "People won't quit. We have our rights and freedoms, and that's one of our rights. There are people who don't believe that is our right and will get mad. It just means I'll have to be more sneaky."
The smoke-free policy won't get any complaints from Faith Bishop, an Evansville, Ind., resident who was also visiting a relative at OMHS.
"I think all public buildings should be smoke-free," she said. "Hospitals should be first."