HSE to ban smoking in all its hospital grounds


THE GROUNDS of every hospital and institution run by the Health Service Executive will be smoke-free by 2015. More than a third of hospitals, including some of the biggest in the State, will ban smoking on their grounds this year, according to the HSE’s national service plan published last week.

Already St Vincent’s Hospital, the Mater, Cork University Hospital and James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, the first to implement the new guidelines, have become completely smoke-free anywhere on their campuses.

On Ash Wednesday Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Waterford Regional Hospital and Galway University Hospital will follow suit.

The Mercy Hospital in Cork, Naas General Hospital, Kerry General Hospital and St James’s Hospital in Dublin are among the other hospitals which will go smoke-free this year.

It will mean patients, staff and relatives will have to leave the hospital grounds if they want to smoke.

The introduction of the smoking ban is being staggered so professionals within the hospital can get sufficient training in smoking cessation therapies such as nicotine patches and gum.

The HSE’s director of public health policy, Dr Fenton Howell, who is a former chairman of Ash, the anti-smoking lobby group, said the policy had “gone without a hitch” in the hospitals already implementing it.

He added: “We need to recognise that there is almost a sense that cigarettes are not as dangerous as they are. Five and a half thousand people die from tobacco every year, and there are thousands admitted to hospital beds because of their addiction.

“The one thing that makes chronic bronchial problems worse is to continue smoking. Likewise surgical wounds heal better if you are not smoking.

“We have a responsibility to help patients manage their addiction and the illness caused by their addiction. If you don’t manage their addiction, you can’t manage their illness.

“We can’t manage patients by letting them continue the thing that brought them into hospital in the first place.”

However, it has been the subject of fierce criticism by retired hospital doctor Dr John Nolan who described it in a letter to The Irish Timesas an act of “primitive savagery”.

He explained: “The habitual smoker is an addict who in hospital needs the comfort of smoking to cope with an already gruelling experience. Its deliberate deprivation is an act of wanton, indeed wicked cruelty at a time when he or she is most in need of cherishing and comforting.”

It was also criticised by the smokers’ lobby group, Forest Éireann. Spokesman John Mallon said the smoking ban was introduced to protect non-smokers, yet those who smoked in the grounds of hospitals were a threat to nobody else.

“It is an attack on a minority based on the personal preferences of those in authority,” he said.