Milwaukee, Wis., June 26, 2005—Beginning Monday, July 4, people who come to Columbia St. Mary’s hospitals and clinics will see new signage declaring, “We’re Proud to Be Smoke-Free.”
July 4 will mark the first day of the health care system’s new Smoke-Free Policy, which prohibits smoking outdoors and well as indoors all property that is owned or leased by Columbia St. Mary’s. This includes the health system’s Columbia, Milwaukee, and Ozaukee campuses; 26 primary care clinics, the CSM Office Center in Glendale, the Columbia College of Nursing, and the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin (50 percent owned by Columbia St. Mary’s). Designated outdoor smoking areas will no longer be available at these facilities.
The new policy will apply to everyone—employees, physicians, patients, visitors, vendors, students, volunteers, contractors, and others—on the health system’s property. Anyone who smokes on Columbia St. Mary’s property after July 3 will be informed of the policy and asked to extinguish their cigarette.
Recognizing that smoking is a major cause of serious diseases, and that exposure to smoke is harmful to others, in 2004 Columbia St. Mary’s leadership decided that all of its facilities would become smoke-free.
“As a health care system concerned about the health of patients, employees, and the community, the most effective way for us to provide a healthier environment is to eliminate tobacco use completely on our properties,” said Therese Pandl, Executive Vice President and COO for Columbia St. Mary’s. “Workplaces nationwide are going smoke-free to provide clean indoor air and protect people from the effects of secondhand smoke. We have taken the lead in becoming a smoke-free health care system in our community.”
Columbia St. Mary’s employees were informed in September about the upcoming policy. Employee focus groups were conducted to gather suggestions for ways to provide support to employees who smoke once the policy begins.
“While our employees will not be required to quit smoking, they will not be able to smoke at Columbia St. Mary’s,” Pandl said. “This is not an ‘anti-smoker’ campaign,” Pandl said. “Rather, a smoke-free policy reflects our role within the community as a health care provider, and promotes a healthier environment for everyone.“
To assist employees who smoke and who wish to quit, Columbia St. Mary’s began offering smoking cessation programs earlier this year. Physicians have been informed of the policy so they may notify their patients who smoke. Patients also will receive information during the admission process. Physicians may prescribe nicotine replacement therapy for their patients who smoke while they are hospitalized. Visitors and others will be informed of this policy through signage throughout the health system’s facilities.
Columbia St. Mary’s has offered educational materials and support programs for employees who wish to quit smoking, and also changed its employee health insurance plan to provide coverage for physician approved and ordered medication to support smoking cessation.
The Columbia St. Mary’s system is comprised of four hospitals: Columbia St. Mary’s Milwaukee Campus, Columbia St. Mary’s Columbia Campus, Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee Campus, and Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Institute, as well as 26 primary care clinics, the Columbia College of Nursing, and a partnership with the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin. An Ambulatory Care Center will open in Glendale in late 2005. The system serves individuals and families in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Washington counties, with more than 157 years of service. Columbia St. Mary’s and its sponsor organizations, Ascension Health and Columbia Health System, share a mission to make a positive difference in the health status and lives of individuals in the community with a special concern for those who are vulnerable.