Wednesday, August 28, 2013

'Wellness' that Works: Don't Hire Smokers

This is Skyler Swisher writing for the Daytona Beach News Journal (link):

Starting Jan. 1, Bert Fish Medical Center will no longer hire tobacco users, joining two other local hospitals in telling smokers not to apply.

Applicants will be tested for a nicotine byproduct and sign an agreement to remain tobacco-free during their employment with the New Smyrna Beach public hospital. The prohibition doesn’t apply to volunteers, medical staff or Bert Fish’s roughly 700 employees who were hired before the implementation date.

“We are in the health care business, and we should be a role model,” said Nancy Evolga, executive director of human resources for the 112-bed hospital. “There is 50 years of data that says tobacco use is bad.”

The hospital’s decision is its latest move in a series of steps to restrict smoking. In 2009, Bert Fish declared itself a smoke-free campus and banned lighting up on the property.

In January 2012, it began a $25 charge per paycheck for smokers who elect to take health insurance. At first, employees were on the honor system to report their smoking, but, starting this year, the hospital began testing employees for a nicotine byproduct with a mouth swab, Evolga said. Employees hired after Jan. 1 who test positive will be subject to disciplinary action up to termination.

A health-risk assessment survey found that about 22 percent of Bert Fish employees use tobacco, Evolga said. To help them quit, Bert Fish offers free tobacco-cessation counseling and nicotine-replacement therapy to employees and their families.

Money collected from tobacco users who work at Bert Fish is pooled together to fund a wellness initiative called Fit for Life. Employees can take yoga classes at the hospital, grab healthy take-home meals and join walking clubs. ...

In 29 states, legislation prevents employers from discriminating based on a person’s smoking during the hiring process, but Florida is not one of those states.

Bert Fish officials cite high health care costs and lost productivity associated with smoking, the toll tobacco use takes on the community’s health, disruptive smoke breaks and the unpleasant smell on smokers’ clothes that colleagues and patients must endure as reasons why they decided to stop hiring tobacco users. ...

Florida Hospital Flagler in Palm Coast and Florida Hospital Fish Memorial in Orange City don’t hire smokers. All hospital campuses in Volusia and Flagler are smoke free.