Clearing the air
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Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]
A celebration was held at Northern Montana Hospital Monday to celebrate the banning of all tobacco at its facilities effective Oct. 1, which coincides with the final implementation of the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act. The act will ban smoking in taverns and casinos. The hospital served cake and coffee in its lobby after its president and chief operating officer, Dave Henry, accepted an award from the state Department of Public Health and Human Services in honor of the campus going tobacco-free Joe Schmier, the hospital's vice president of human resources, said the hospital has been gradually working toward setting up a tobacco-free campus with Stacie Haas, a registered nurse and the hospital's employee health and education coordinator. “We're just kind of easing into it,” he said. Jay Schuschke, tobacco prevention specialist with Havre's HELP Committee, presented Henry with a Certificate of Healthcare Excellence from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Northern Montana Hospital joins 22 other hospitals which have already banned tobacco. Eight more are slated to do so in 2009. In a letter sent with the certificate, Dr. Steven Helgerson, the medical officer at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, congratulated the action. “The toll from tobacco use is great. Every year, over 1,400 Montanans die prematurely of tobacco related diseases and many more suffer illness and disability,” Helgerson wrote. “You have joined an increasing number of medical facilities in Montana that have taken this important step. Through your leadership on this major public health issue, more Montanans will enjoy improved health and quality of life.” Haas said the ban will include all Northern Montana Hospital property including the clinic on its West Campus, the property just east of the hospital, the long-term care Center, and at the Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center. The ban includes smoking inside cars on the parking lots of the properties. Haas and Schmier said the Oct. 1 ban is the final step in preventing tobacco use on the campus. Several years ago, regulations were put in place prohibiting employees from smoking at the hospital properties, then about three or four years ago a ban was put on locations inside a blue line marked near the hospital entrance. Schmier said part of the ban includes Haas providing help and information to employees to help them quit smoking, or at least to get through the work day. “Helping people get through their shift without smoking is certainly something we can do,” Haas said. Gina Barker, public relations manager from the hospital, said she hopes people will bring something in which to put their extinguished cigarettes. “We are hoping they will carry an ashtray with them and not litter in surrounding neighborhoods,” she said, adding that something as simple as using a pop can would work. Haas agreed. There will be no receptacles on the hospital campus, she said. “There will be no designated smoking areas, so there will be no smoking receptacles,” she said. Schuschke said he is setting up the policies which will be implemented Oct. 1 when the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act bans smoking in all businesses including bars. Schuschke said the state is finalizing an online system that will allow people to file complaints about smoking in areas where it is prohibited. The system will be used by tobacco prevention specialists in reviewing and verifying the complaints and taking action. In a recent meeting with members of the Hill County Health Board, Schuschke said the plan is for no more than one complaint to be filed against a business in a certain period, recommended by the state to be at least seven days. If a complaint is filed, either online or with a paper form, the tobacco prevention specialist would review and verify that the person listed as making the complaint actually filed it and that the property actually was one where smoking is prohibited. Part of developing the county's protocol includes how to react to offenses Hill County, for example, could send an educational letter on the first offense, then a letter of warning on the second and a letter of reprimand on the third. Fines then would come into play on the fourth and subsequent offenses.