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Paynesville Press - October 31, 2001

PAHCS revises smoke-free restrictions

By Michael Jacobson

The smoke-free policy at the Paynesville Area Health Care System has been amended, less than a month after it came into effect.

In September, the hospital district board of directors voted to make PAHCS's facility and grounds smoke-free, except for residents of the Koronis Manor in designated areas and residents of 700 Stearns Place in their apartments.

Because of the ban, employees who smoke had been forced to do so on the city streets and sidewalks, off the PAHCS grounds. Some employees brought concerns to CEO Willie LaCroix, who brought the issue back to the board at their October meeting last week. The employees proposed having a designated smoking area in the outdoor courtyard of the facility.

Board feelings about the issue were mixed. An obvious concern was the message that being smoke-free lends to a health care provider.

"In principal, it makes good sense," said Dr. Bob Gardner, chief of the medical staff and a hospital board member. "In reality, people are still smoking."

Board member Carolyn Swyter was concerned about the impact that smoking has on personal hygiene as well as the number of patients who might be allergic to smoke. Gardner replied that the ban would never get employees to stop smoking, only influence where employees would smoke.

In the end, the board voted 7-3 to amend the smoke-free policy to allow employees to smoke in a designated area in the privacy of the courtyard. This should prevent littering of cigarette butts on the city streets and neighboring lawns.

Voting in favor of amending the policy were Don Anderson, Bob Brauchler, Dr. Bob Gardner, Mel Jones, Sara Olmscheid, Grace Peteler, and Rich Philabaum. Voting against it - to keep the more complete ban - were Diane Rothstein, Doug Ruhland, and Carolyn Swyter.

Employees will have to pay for some sort of overhang, which is needed to keep an entrance to the courtyard dry during the winter and prevent slipping.

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