MATTOON Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Centers recent decision to no longer hire people who use nicotine will help protect patients and help it send the message it wants to send, hospital officials say.
SBLHC recently announced that people who use tobacco products cant get jobs at the hospital starting July 1. Current employees will exempt.
While it appears that no other area health care organization has such a ban, there are others in the country and in Illinois that have made similar decisions, according to Eric Benson, SBLHC vice president for human resources.
Many health care organizations have moved in this direction, Benson said. We want to be the role model for health in our community.
SBLHC started a no-smoking policy for anywhere on its grounds in 2008. However, one of the hospitals physicians said third-hand smoke can cause health problems just as being around someone whos actually smoking.
Bernie Ranchero, SBLHC director of employee wellness, said carcinogens from tobacco smoke can embed themselves on smokers clothing, hair and elsewhere. Exposure to that can cause health problems, especially for infants and people with allergies or respiratory problems, he explained.
It goes back to can you smell a smoker? Ranchero said. It can be just as dangerous.
Neither Carle Foundation Hospital, based in Urbana and which has a Mattoon clinic, nor St. Anthonys Memorial Hospital in Effingham has a ban on hiring nicotine users for its hospitals or other facilities, according to their representatives. But as with SBLHC, they both ban smoking at their facilities and have incentives in place to encourage workers to quit using tobacco products, they said.
Carle officials encourage staff to make healthy lifestyle choices, spokeswoman Kelli Anderson said. Employees who use nicotine have to pay higher premiums for their health insurance and Carle has programs and medications to help stop using nicotine available at no cost to workers, she said.
St. Anthonys also has programs to help employees quit tobacco use and insurance pays for quit-smoking classes and covers prescription medicines, spokeswoman Terriann Tharp said.
Benson said hospitals in Peoria and in Chatham, as well as some in other parts of the country, have policies against hiring people who use nicotine.
SBLHC also has programs to help end tobacco use. Also, Benson said one of its nurses recently attended a program at the Mayo Clinic to learn about a multi-step program to help people stop smoking. He said the program has already been successful, as more than 20 current employees have used the program to quit tobacco use.
Benson also said SBLHC obtained legal advice to make sure the no-nicotine policy was not discriminatory. He said the hospitals attorney indicated that the policy is allowed for a health care organization because of its mission to protect the health of the community.
He added that the hospitals board approved the policy and theres been a very positive response from employees.
It was a thoughtful process and we hope we can encourage people to not use tobacco, he said.
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