In May 5 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
Russell County Hospital is now a tobacco free healthcare facility, according to Teresa Spaw, the hospital's administrative assistant and medical staff services coordinator who is in charge of marketing and public relations.
The facility went tobacco free on Monday after more than a year of planning for this day, Spaw said.
"Our commitment to the community is to provide quality healthcare and we're certainly health conscious and that is one way of definitely becoming it is tobacco free," she said.
While the hospital does employ several smokers and visitors have been allowed to smoke on the grounds, Spaw said she hopes folks will take to the new rules without incident.
"The committee that has been over this for the past year has decided it's everyone's job to encourage and that's the approach we're taking," she said. "We're taking the carrot instead of the stick approach."
The committee was comprised of Spaw, Facilities Management Director Mike Egnew, Teresa Bricker from Quality Risk Management, Jennifer Dykes from Human Resources, Dr. Rick Miles, Respiratory Therapist Paula Mann as well as three other associates who are smokers.
She said she didn't anticipate compliance day one but hopes as time goes on and folks are reminded about the new policy that they will come to appreciate what it's for.
"I don't think we'll have a lot of problems with this, I think a year from now we'll look back and see how easy it went off," Spaw said.
The tobacco ban reaches off campus as well as any properties owned by the hospital are now tobacco free as well. This includes the Senior Life Solutions, over at the Medical Arts building, the clinic and offsite lab as well as the rehabilitation center.
"Everyone has given us great support behind this, the medical staff and the board of directors," she said. "We are actually one of the last healthcare facilities to go tobacco free."
Spaw said she, herself, was a smoker for 20 years but did kick the habit eight years ago.
"Quitting is hard," she said. "You have to want to quit to quit. You can't make anyone quit just by going tobacco free today so that's why I don't think we'll see immediate compliance but it will come."
If hospital management does see someone smoking or using tobacco products on the ground they will receive a friendly reminder about the policy in the form of a card with a sucker taped to it.
"We're also trying to help our associates who want to give up smoking," she said. "We are reimbursing them up to $100 cost for any tobacco abatement product."
Senior Health Educator Shirley Roberson at the Russell County Health Department said she commended the hospital for going tobacco free as she has consulted with them about their decision throughout the process.
"It is a huge big deal," Roberson said. "Anytime that you have a big facility like that go tobacco free you've got all the outskirt facilities that must be taken into account as well."
Roberson has taught the Cooper/Clayton method to quit smoking and various respiratory classes for more than a decade in an effort to get folks to go tobacco free and has networked with the hospital on those endeavors.
"It is a nationwide effort at this point," she said. "I'm proud that Russell County Hospital, which is in a rural area, is taking on that responsibility. A lot of our smaller rural hospitals aren't taking on that responsibility of the health of the citizens of their counties. It is a big step for them."
She said in the three years it's been since the health department grounds went smoke free, officials there still have to go outside and tell folks to put out their cigarettes from time to time. This is not an easy battle to win, she said, but folks oblige and put out their cigarettes with no problem.
"Enforcement is the big thing, how are you going to enforce it," Roberson said, noting that was key to keeping an establishment tobacco free.
Back at the hospital, Spaw said she understands that enforcement will be an issue but with time and persistence things should fall into place regarding their new policy.