University of Rochester Medical Center to Establish Smoke Free Campus

June 15, 2006

The University of Rochester Medical Center is joining three other area hospitals in establishing smoke free campuses this fall, including Highland Hospital, Newark Wayne Community Hospital and Rochester General Hospital. The joint announcement was made this morning at the Rochester Regional Healthcare Association (RRHA), said Diane Ashley, RRHA Executive Vice President.

Beginning on Thursday, November 16, in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, participating local hospitals will ask all individuals to leave their grounds if they need to smoke.   Plus, staff will assess each hospitalized patient, prescribing nicotine replacement therapy and offering smoking cessation counseling to those who use tobacco. Staff and visitors interested in stopping smoking will also be connected with cessation resources or directed to nicotine replacement therapy available through the respective hospital pharmacies, gift shops, or other in-house locations.   

“As health care institutions, it is simply inconsistent with our missions to allow anyone to smoke – or be exposed to smoke – while at our facilities,” said Mac Evarts, M.D., University of Rochester Medical Center CEO.  “That’s why we are joining a growing list of health care organizations that are smoke-free, inside and out.”

For months, hospitals throughout the region have been meeting at the Rochester Regional Healthcare Association, planning how to extend long-time bans on smoking within their facilities to include parking lots and garages, entrances to buildings, and all other grounds.  Lessons learned at hospitals in Syracuse, Albany, and the Southern Tier have been incorporated into the planning, along with advice from institutions like the University of Michigan Medical Center, which has been smoke-free for seven years.

The Smoke-free Inside and Out initiative takes in-house smoking bans one step further, by establishing a perimeter around each campus within which smoking is prohibited.  The change is drawing applause from Monroe County Health Director Andrew Doniger, M.D., M.P.H., as well as the Monroe County Medical Society, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and the Smoking and Health Action Coalition.

"Despite huge gains achieved through the years, smoking continues to be our nation's leading preventable cause of death," Doniger said.  "The vast majority of people who smoke want to quit and we strive to connect them with the help they need to succeed.  Protecting people from the health hazards associated with breathing secondhand smoke continues to be a public health priority.” 

“Our goal is to provide an environment at our health care institutions that promotes health and wellness,” said Sam Huston, ViaHealth President and CEO.  “A smoke-free approach is a natural next step for all of us to embrace.”  

Monroe County Medical Society leaders have been helping to communicate the plan to physicians throughout the community.  Doctors have been drafting a consistent protocol for prescribing nicotine replacement therapy and routing patients to cessation resources. 

“The physician community congratulates the hospital systems for taking this noteworthy step.  We recognize the value of combining resources and skills to achieve this laudable goal,” said Joseph Stankaitis, M.D.,M.P.H., of the Monroe County Medical Society.  “Our physicians are eager to support any individual who is considering smoking cessation and will take whatever steps are necessary to achieve our goal.” 

Over the next few months, the hospitals will install signage, update websites, and orient doctors and employees to the changes. 

The Smoke-Free Hospitals Committee is chaired by Deb Zimmermann, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer of Rochester General Hospital and Kathy Parrinello, Chief Operating Officer of Strong Memorial Hospital.  It also includes Nancy Adams and Joseph Stankaitis, M.D. of the Monroe County Medical Society; Diane Ashley of the Rochester Regional Healthcare Association; Cindy Becker of Highland Hospital; Teri D’Agostino, Gabrielle Kapsak, Scott McIntosh, Ph.D., and Robert Merberg of the University of Rochester Medical Center; Andrew Doniger, M.D. and John Ricci of the Monroe County Health Department; Brenda Evans, Diane Ewing, Richard Gangemi, M.D., Lorelei Heliotis, Cheryl Henke, and Gary Smith of Rochester General Hospital; Marisol Lopez and Peter Saxe of the City of Rochester; and Patrick McKenna, Eileen Wolff and Kim McMahon of the American Cancer Society. 

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