Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Policy or Discrimination? Some Hospitals Will Not Hire Smokers-- TwistIt Tuesday

First and foremost, before we begin this topic let us say that this has to be one for the record books.  I *Jacob* believes that a hospital should be clean and smoke free.  Why would a Doctor who knows the affects that cigarettes have, want to put that into his/her/it system.  We will give you all the full story so you can see for yourself.  It is not a national law yet, but some states are pushing for it; HARD.  Here we are with another TwistIt Tuesday and the question is once again, How would YOU handle this situation.  There is no right or wrong answer, but you get a chance to have a voice on something that is a little more serious.  Truth be told, this will affect more people across America than you would think.

Here is the article in its entirety courtesy of http://www.detnews.com/

Smokers, tobacco users, even those using nicotine patches to kick the habit, shouldn't bother applying for a job at Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Rochester.
Or Bixby Medical Center in Adrian. Same goes for Herrick Medical Center in Tecumseh.

The three Michigan hospitals are among several health systems and some private companies across the country that have adopted policies to hire only nonsmokers and nontobacco users, citing the need to live up to their health missions.
The policies, which come after most hospitals have already banned smoking on their campuses, also help lower employee health care costs, said Laura Ritzler, director of wellness for ProMedica, which owns the Bixby and Herrick medical centers. And several national studies have shown smokers use more sick days and have higher medical costs than nonsmokers.
The policy changes, however, raise questions about the rights of the 1 in 5 Americans who smoke, using a legal product in time off the clock, and whether the move could lead to other employer bans.

"Our mission statement includes the phrase we're 'dedicated to enhancing the health status of our community,'" said Jeff Kapuscinski, director of marketing and communications for Crittenton, which implemented its policy in November
. "We think this policy is a natural extension of that and a necessary step in the journey."
All of the major health systems in southeast Michigan said they have no immediate plans to adopt a no-tobacco-use policy for new hires, but a few left the door open to change in the future. Insurers Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, HealthPlus of Michigan, Priority Health and Health Alliance Plan also don't have plans to implement nonsmoking hiring policies.
Oakwood Healthcare Inc. spokeswoman Paula Rivera-Kerr said the topic is worthy of more discussion. Nancy Dumas, a spokeswoman for Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills, said the hospital would continue to watch the development. Beaumont Hospitals spokesman Robert Ortlieb said that while Beaumont hires smokers now, "that may change someday."
In two instances, Crittenton had to revoke job offers because the applicants tested positive for nicotine during a screening, Kapuscinski said. He said there are no plans to impose the policy on current employees, as it would be hard to implement and manage. The hospital employs 1,700.
Discrimination, critic says
Twenty-nine states have laws that prevent employers from discriminating against smokers in employment decisions, said Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a workers' rights advocacy group based in Princeton, N.J.
In the mid-2000s, the institute tried unsuccessfully to help pass a similar law in Michigan following the firing of four employees at Weyco Inc. in Okemos because they smoked after the company adopted a no-smoking policy.
"Employers who are doing this are basically saying discrimination is OK, at least on this category of smokers," said Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, adding that employment bans against smokers could lead to bans against other people, such as those who are overweight.
Maltby said employers reviewing risky behaviors could start to review employees' sex lives.
"Some young person … practicing unsafe sex has a much higher risk of contracting HIV than a monogamous married employee, so do we want employers to go around checking everyone's sex life to help keep health costs down?" Maltby asked.
Crittenton, which hires 200 to 250 new employees each year, feels confident its policy does not discriminate, Kapuscinski said.
"Several courts have upheld there's no constitutional right to smoke," said Kapuscinski, who expects more Metro Detroit hospitals to follow Crittenton's lead. "We felt very comfortable that we were not discriminating."
But several health care workers who smoke said the habit doesn't interfere with their ability to do their jobs.
Ohio-based ProMedica, a system with several hospitals, including the two in Michigan, launched its tobacco-free hiring policy in January, also to uphold its mission, Ritzler said.
Nicotine tests required
Like Crittenton, ProMedica requires applicants to pass a nicotine test.
So far, ProMedica hasn't had anyone test positive and hasn't had to revoke any job offers, Ritzler said.
One applicant at Bixby did mark on the application that he or she used tobacco, Ritzler said. "The interview didn't go forward, and they have quit smoking, and they plan to reapply in 90 days," she said.
Neither Crittenton nor ProMedica retest new employees after they pass the initial test.
But employees hired under the new policy at ProMedica who later are found to smoke or use tobacco would be counseled, disciplined and, as a last resort, terminated, Ritzler said.
Crittenton does not have a similar enforcement policy.
Thirty-year smoker Cheryl Gomez, 52, of Lambertville, a nurse who works as a patient safety specialist at ProMedica's Toledo Hospital, said she agreed with ProMedica's hiring decision when it was announced last year.
"It's the right thing to do from the standpoint of our patients and stewardship for the community," she said. "No one can argue with the evidence that (smoking is harmful)."
Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
ProMedica's policy was the nudge Gomez needed to quit. She gave up her pack-a-day habit on Dec. 21.
"The smell of the smoke, none of that is good for my patients, whether I'm a new hire or have worked here for 100 years."
(313) 222-2319
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