THE smoking shelter at the Mid West Regional Hospital has been removed in an effort to create a smoke-free campus by June 1.
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 “zero tolerance” policy and detail security staff to move smokers off the grounds.
Smokers will be forced to stand outside the front gates, with a blue line clearly marking out hospital grounds.
The HSE revealed that the shelter in the Regional hospital was removed at a cost of €1,280 by Safety Storage Systems Ltd, who originally installed it.
“They will hold the shelter in their warehouse at the Raheen Industrial Estate and put it on their website for sale. If the shelter is sold the HSE will be refunded the removal cost,” said a HSE spokesperson.
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.
“There will be one designated area, but people using it will have to be brought down with a staff member,” said the spokesperson.
“It will only be people who get permission from their consultant. Every case will be treated on an individual basis.”
The spokesperson pointed to the fact that this ban has been rolled out in a number of sites across the country previously, including the Mater in Dublin, where consultants only allowed 12 exemptions in the first year of operation.
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.
Security will from June 1 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.