Hospital’s non-smoking area expands

Clean air: Shuswap Lake General Hospital social worker Merel Van Oeveren and hospital manager Mark Pugh enjoy the smoke-free air now that the last remaining ashtray has been removed.

Clean air: Shuswap Lake General Hospital social worker Merel Van Oeveren and hospital manager Mark Pugh enjoy the smoke-free air now that the last remaining ashtray has been removed.

Shuswap Lake General Hospital is extending its non-smoking policy to the outdoors.

The last ashtray just outside the hospital’s main entrance has been removed and non-smokers will be able to sit on the benches without inhaling second-hand smoke.

Diehard smokers will have to go further afield before they light up.

Shuswap Lake General is one of five Interior Health facilities that has been running a pilot project according to the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation.

With more hospitals declaring themselves to be smoke-free, patients are having to travel farther away, often dragging IV poles and other medical equipment with them.

“Such drug-seeking behaviour, evident on hospital sidewalks at any time of day or night, provides vivid, stark and incontrovertible evidence of the addictive nature of nicotine and our failure to address our patients’ discomfort,” reads an excerpt from the Ottawa model.

And that’s where SLGH social worker Merel Van Oeveren, comes in.  She says it’s not enough to tell patients they have to quit, without giving them some assistance to do so successfully.

“One of the primary reasons we use this model at SLGH is because a hospitalization is usually a health crisis of some sort and people are frequently ready to re-consider lifestyle choices including; smoking, exercise, diet and drinking habits,” she says. “This is a window of opportunity.”

Not only does Van Oeveren work with patients while they are in hospital, there is a six-month follow-up after discharge. And, when they leave, these patients take a $50 card with them that allows them to go to any pharmacy and purchase the quitting aid of their choice.

“We’re not saying everyone who comes here has to quit, and some haven’t tried for 30 years or more,” she says, noting the program is only for inpatients at the moment. “Smoking is everyone’s business and at SLGH we want to promote healthy non-smoking behaviour.”