Members of the hospital staff walk around the property as they announce the re-dedication of their smoke-free grounds policy on Monday.
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The region's hospital is looking to become completely smoke-free, but must wait for the decision that will determine if it can be brought to a practical fruition.
The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre celebrated its recommitment to maintaining smoke-free grounds Monday morning. The celebration comes as hospital officials seek support from city council Monday evening to provide assistance with enforcement.
Hospital manager of preventative services Kelly-Jo Gillis said while in theory the grounds have been smoke-free since the hospital first opened, it was never strictly enforced and now they want people to follow the policy.
“We have had a smoke-free grounds policy since we built the facility in 2004, but what we’ve done now is revise the policy a bit so it is much more comprehensive,” Gillis explained.
“We have spent quite a bit of time focusing on the education and awareness so people are aware of the fact that our grounds are smoke free.”
Currently charges can only be pressed for those caught smoking within nine metres of a hospital entrance, with a fine of $305. Tickets cannot be leveled for smoking on the hospital grounds if not in close proximity to an entrance.
The hospital appeared before council in early August to advocate for an amendment to the city’s smoking by-law to include the entire hospital property. The hospital is also requesting that members of its security force become deputized to hand out tickets.
At the time council tasked administration with preparing a report, which they will bring back and present to council at their weekly session.
Ken Gallant, the hospital’s manager of security, stressed if the by-law is amended the hospital is not looking to issue tickets or fines if it can be avoided
“The role for security is more of an education. We want people to comply more than anything,” Gallant said. “We understand the reasons people come here and family come here as well, so compliance is all we’re seeking. To issue tickets and fine people is going to be a last resort.”
Gillis said the hospital is offering alternative treatments to patients with a nicotine dependency, including patches and other therapies.
She also said the hospital will not provide physical assistance to patients to get off property to smoke.
In addition, she added any patients leaving the premises to smoke must sign a waiver absolving the hospital of any liability and acknowledge awareness they are going against doctor’s orders.
The decision to reinforce the smoke-free policy was not one that was made lightly, and Gillis said it was through public input that they decided to take these steps.
“We have had complaints over the years from people that they don’t want to be having to go through clouds of smoke entering a health care facility,” she said.
“Over the past two years we’ve had engagement sessions with the community and our staff members, both smokers and non-smokers, to get a sense of what we should be doing. From those engagement sessions we have learned that our community and staff want to remain smoke free.”
Council will vote on the report at Monday’s Committee of the Whole session. If they vote in favour of the by-law, the issue will be carried to a future meeting of city council for ratification.
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