Friday, March 5, 2010

Providence Hospital: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Ahh of the eternal public health hot topics. And while we can debate and argue about whether or not smoking should be outlawed in restaurants and bars, or whether cigarettes should be taxed higher, that is not the point of this blog. Most of society can, however, agree that smoking in places like schools and hospitals is generally taboo or at least frowned upon. However, this seems to be lost on the staff and employees of Providence Hospital—ironically named “Washington’s First Tobacco Free Campus.”
  On any given day, at almost any time, employees can be seen puffing away standing next to the sign proclaiming the hospital a Tobacco Free Campus. The often scrub clad employees can be seen piping away in little cohorts, looking like the Marlboro Man after completing a successful lung surgery. Now technically, the area that employees utilize for smoking is not on the hospital's property (but, we’re literally talking inches away). They usually stand on the publicly owned sidewalk, directly next to the “Smoke Free” sign, and next to the doors of the emergency room and driveway for ambulances. As a “100% Tobacco Free” campus, the ban is supposed to include the facility, grounds, and even parking lots.
  However, the hypocrisy is all too evident, and the message being sent to the public by this display is not a good one. How can a doctor council a patient suffering from emphysema or lung cancer on the dangers of smoking, when immediately after being discharged they can bum a smoke directly outside the emergency room doors from a nurse of orderly. Now this may roam into the realm of personal accountability vs. government intervention...however, that is not the purpose of this article. Neither is the irony of doctors and health care workers who smoke (although, admittedly hard to ignore!).
  As with everything on this blog, the point is to raise awareness. Providence Hospital, as it wishes to be, acts as an ambassador for this community. In 2007, when Providence became the first hospital in Washington DC to sign on as a “100% smoke free campus,” they took pride in the policy and claimed to vehemently defend and enforce. They even began offering smoking cessation programs for their employees. Providence Administrators worried that “the sight of staff, visitors or others outside smoking whether on break or en route to their cars, diminished the hospital's cessation efforts,” and that by the hospital “looking the other way [it] implied tacit approval.” It appears that they must have especially worried about the appearance of staff smoking outside the hospital—and yet, driving by on any given day, it is almost completely staff and not patients heeding the call of cigarettes.  
  Clearly implementation of the policy has not been, and never could have been, an easy task. But, in all honesty, it doesn’t really seem as if they are making any effort. Is the Hospital Administration already tired of trying after just a few years? Well then, take down your huge blue signs proclaiming your virtuous no smoking policy!!! Why allow your staff to day after day stand next to the sign puffing away almost defiantly. It devalues anything your staff tells patients they should be doing to improve their health. Not to mention, the vast piles of cigarette butts that litter the ground surrounding the hospital have yet to be taken care...especially since part of the ban was supposed to save money on grounds maintenance of such butts. I think the community would agree on a whole that this is NOT the proper representation of their neighborhood, and not a good image for a Hospital.

  Above : People actally smoking on Hospital Grounds 
*pictures intentionally pixelated to prevent identification*
**Thanks to Caribou for help with writing and the idea for the story**  


Michael Lamm said...

I would think that a hospital would care more for its reputation...

IMGoph said...

so much for good intentions...