Hospital board discusses smoking in its facilities

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 11/3/99.

Koronis Manor residents that smoke can expect to continue their habit, but hospital system employees should prepare themselves for the eventual elimination of smoking on the Paynesville Area Health Care System (PAHCS) grounds.

Currently, there is a designated room for employees, patients, and Koronis Manor residents to smoke. Residents of 700 Stearns Place may smoke in their apartments, but not in any public areas.

In an unanimous vote, the hospital board directed the administration to alter the Manor remodeling plans to include an area where patients could smoke. They also asked the administration to devise an incremental plan to eliminate smoking by employees in the facility.

Three Manor residents raised the issue by sending a letter to the board expressing their belief that a space for smoking should be included during an expected remodeling project. Hospital system administrator Willie LaCroix read the letter to the board members. He also informed them that the medical staff had voted 4-1, with one abstention, to allow smoking by current Manor residents but not to allow smoking by new admissions and to terminate smoking as soon as possible.

"It's really easy to be sympathetic to both sides," said Dr. Randy Zimmerman, chief of staff. But smoke-free buildings are becoming increasingly common and he felt the health care industry should be a leader in this trend. Smoking threatens more than just the smoker because of the health risks of secondhand smoke.

Board member Rich Philabaum related his experiences from the Veteran's Administration hospital to the board. There smoking was eliminated in steps. First it was banned from buildings and later from the entire grounds.

For residents, several board members felt the issue involved the individual right to choose as well as business considerations. Several board members agreed that the Manor is a home and residents should still be able to make choices about their lifestyle.

Beyond that, LaCroix said PAHCS had a responsibility to serve the whole public. Board member Don Anderson wondered what would happen if a smoke-free facility had open beds and smokers needed care.

"I think it's a bad business decision to tell someone who wants to come here that they can't smoke," agreed board member Doug Ruhland.

•The board approved ordering a state-of-the-art Toschiba multislice CT Scanner. It will cost $900,000 over five years to upgrade from our present CT Scanner. This purchase was included in the budget for the current fiscal year, but the administration brought it back to the board because of its significant cost.

The high speed scanner and improved computer software will allow for better images and more procedures. The scanner has been ordered but will take several months to arrive.

•The hospital district received a letter from the city of Lake Henry requesting annexation to the district. The city does not border the district, so their admission will require special legislation.

LaCroix told the board he had spoken with Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) and Rep. Doug Stang (R-Cold Spring) about amending the hospital district law to allow existing districts to admit noncontiguous entities. Previously, the cities of Eden Valley and Richmond joined the district using special legislation.

•PAHCS is continuing to recruit extra physicians. Dr. Heidi Malling has agreed to come to Paynesville. She could start here next summer.

Another third-year resident also visited Paynesville recently.

•The board approved a new four-year contract for LaCroix as administrator. LaCroix has indicated that he will retire at the end of this contract, which runs through Dec. 31, 2003.

•The board directed the administration to list the clinic building in Richmond with a realtor.

•An open house has been set for Sunday, Dec. 12, at the new Richmond Area Medical Clinic. The open house is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

•The board granted ancillary privileges to Cynthia Robertson, a nurse practitioner who will be continuing to staff the clinic in Watkins. The board granted additional privileges to Shari Heitke, nurse practitioner; Laura Odell, Pharm.D., and Todd Lemke, Pharm.D.

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