Smokers outside hospital doors fear ‘degrading’ smoking ban

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

MOVES to make the Mid West Regional Hospital a smoke-free campus are likely to be met with resistance, patients said this week.

MOVES to make the Mid West Regional Hospital a smoke-free campus are likely to be met with resistance, patients said this week.

From today, all acute hospitals in Limerick and the wider Mid-West region are to be made smoke free, with the HSE saying it will enforce a Smokers will be forced to stand outside the gates of all hospital campuses in the Mid-West, with a blue line clearly marking out hospital grounds to stop smoking.

“The policy will apply to all staff, patients, visitors, contractors and anyone who enters the hospital buildings or grounds and will ensure a healthier, safer and cleaner environment for all and better health outcomes for patients and staff,” said a HSE spokesperson.

The Regional Hospital already has a policy prohibiting smoking at the front of the building and while loudspeaker announcements regularly remind patrons of this, the rules are widely flouted.

A smoking shelter outside the hospital was removed last week in the run-up to the ban.

On a visit to the Regional this week to canvass the views of smokers outside the doors of the hospital, the pending ban was dismissed as “crazy”.

One smoker, who only identified himself only as ‘Johnny’ and whose wife is a long-term patient in the hospital, said the policy would be “degrading” to both staff and patients in the hospital.

“I think it is crazy,” said Johnny, “you take a patient here, they have to go out on the road to smoke. Are they covered by insurance once they leave the grounds to smoke?

“You would often see up to 40 patients at any one time smoking here. They are all in disagreement with this.

“I have seen people in drips and wheelchairs, every kind of patient. I have seen really bad patients, limb amputees. Where will they all go?

“The staff are affected now too, even the doctors, and patients. It is very degrading of them to have to go down to the front gate,” he added.

Another smoker, Kieran O’Connell from Sir Harry’s Mall who was awaiting a kidney operation, said: “People will ignore it and smoke away. It will cause a lot of trouble”.

“I’d need a wheelchair to get down to the gate. It is crazy. I think people will ignore it,” he added.

Exemptions to the ban will apply in limited cases - but consultants will have to give permission for patients to use a new outdoor smoking area in the Regional.

From today, security staff will ask people to leave the grounds but the HSE has acknowledged there are no legal penalties which can be imposed should patients or visitors ignore the policy.

Consultants have broadly welcomed the smoking ban, but some, like Regional director of cancer services Prof Rajnish Gupta, has said he would prefer if those who flouted the ban were subjected to legal penalties. “zero tolerance” policy and detail security staff to move smokers off the grounds.