Tracie Smith, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre's communications director, speaks to city council Monday night.
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Smoke-free grounds at the hospital will now be backed up by the city.
The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre property has been smoke-free since it opened in 2004. But the ban could only be enforced through provincial legislation if someone smoked within nine metres of the building’s entrances. The hospital asked the city to include its grounds within Thunder Bay’s smoking bylaw, something that was approved 10-3 by city council Monday night.
Along with tobacco enforcement officer from the health unit, security guards at the hospital will be deputized in order to fine people caught smoking on the property. But hospital administration stresses that fines will only be used as a last resort.
Many councillors enthusiastically supported the idea of the hospital's efforts to stop smoking on the property. Mayor Keith Hobbs said it's an insult to sick people when they have to walk through a cloud of smoke to enter the hospital.
"It's a slap in the face," he said.
Drinking alcohol is also not allowed on hospital property Coun. Paul Pugh said. Certain things aren't allowed out of concern for public safety. And while smokers rights are considered, non-smokers rights need to be considered too.
"The objective of these policies isn’t punishment,” he said.
Coun. Rebecca Johnson said the ban has always been there and that voting with the hospital shows that it supports health initiatives.
"It's going to happen ladies and gentlemen whether you agree or disagree with it," she said.
But other councillors took issue with an outright ban. The hospital said that it offers nicotine replacement therapy for all patients andstaff in an effort to battle the addiction. Coun. Trevor Giertuga asked about terminally ill patients who weren't interested in stopping smoking. He wondered what those patients would do if they couldn't smoke on the property.
"Are we going to wheel them out to Oliver Road to have a cigarette?" he asked.
Hospital manager of preventative services Kelly-Jo Gillis said hospital staff would deal with the situation in different ways but it's not clear yet.
"It's a question that we all struggle with," she said.
Communications director Tracie Smith said that hospital policy states certain equipment can't leave the property due to safety reasons. While patients are free to leave the property anytime, the equipment wouldn't be going with them.
"We would be working closely with our in patients to provide nicotine replacement therapies and encourage them to take advantage of those opportunities," she said.
Those opportunities will also be extended to staff, of which an estimated 22 per cent are smokers, and their families.
The decision to step up enforcement of the smoking ban was made after consultation with everyone from staff to members of the public. Smith said this is what people wanted, for the hospital to be a leader in healthy lifestyles.
"We listened to their input and that's exactly what they asked for," she said.
As for the fine's amount, that has yet to be determined. Council will vote to ratify it's decision at a future meeting.
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