Smoking snuffed out at Whidbey General Hospital

The days of puffing away stress outside the double-sliding door entrance to Whidbey General Hospital are numbered.

A “tobacco-free team” with nonsmokers, former smokers and current smokers have devised a timeline to help hospital staff, doctors, patients and visitors transition to a fully smoke-free health care campus by this time next year.

“If you had looked at this 20 years ago, we would have been laughed out of the room, but now it’s a serious discussion,” said Dr. Paul Zaveruha at a September hospital board of commissioners meeting. “This is evolutionary.”

Tobacco bans at health care facility are gaining popularity, said Katherine Riddle, a tobacco cessation expert at Whidbey General Hospital.

“Across the nation, most hospitals are going this way,” she said.

The tobacco-free areas will include all Whidbey General Hospital grounds, parking lots, company-owned vehicles and employee vehicles parked on hospital-owned or leased property.

Teresa Fulton, director of quality control at Whidbey General Hospital, said the change will benefit the entire community.

“Our hospital touches the lives of our employees, patients and visitors and the community. As an employer our goal is to provide the safest and healthiest working environment. As a healthcare provider and community member, our goal is to provide the most comprehensive and cost-effective quality care possible,” said Fulton.

There is a designated smoking area in front of the hospital, but patients are discouraged from smoking while they are in the hospital’s care, she said. On occasion, a doctor will allow their patient to go outside for a smoke, but that’s ended in some costly mishaps.

“People fall and a $20,000 pump breaks,” she said. “Nicotine craving are a challenge for patients, nurses and doctors.”

Fulton said nicotine-addicted patients can supplement their normal smoking habits with tobacco-replacement products if they’re in the hospital for an extended amount of time.

“We have a lot of pharmaceutical aids to help with that,” she said.

The one-year notice will give the hospital time to help its employees and the community prepare for the change. In addition, the hospital will offer free smoking cessation classes from October through January.

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