EASTAR Health System will convert to a tobacco-free system on March 1, according to a media release.
The change applies to staff, physicians, volunteers, patients and visitors.
The health system’s East campus (formerly Muskogee Community Hospital), located at 2900 N. Main St., had previously been a smoke-free facility. This new policy prohibits all forms of tobacco on all system property.
“This has been a goal of the medical staff for a long time, and I am glad we are moving forward with this. It will certainly create a much healthier environment for our patients as well as those of us who care for those patients,” said Jay Gregory, MD, System chief medical officer, in the release. “It won’t be an easy transition, but with a substance as addictive as tobacco, no one expects it to be easy. But it’s necessary if we want to help people better manage their health.”
EASTAR plans to promote the changes through a campaign that will include newspaper advertising, social media, radio announcements and on-campus signage.
Staff will remind visitors and vendors of the new policy. Dr. Dwayne Atwell, president of the EASTAR medical staff, said patient education will be taken care of primarily though the physicians.
“The conversation with a patient about quitting tobacco use needs to also happen at the physician level,” Atwell said. “And sometimes that’s a tough conversation. Part of my job as leader of the medical staff is to work closely with our doctors on issues such as this. I will be helping to ensure that these conversations happen so that our patients understand the new policy and can comply.”
EASTAR plans to remove as many barriers as possible to make compliance with this new policy easier, understanding that people who are addicted will have a tough time not being able to smoke or use other forms of tobacco, the media release said.
“We are also working to make nicotine replacement products available for sale in our gift shops for those who choose that as an option, and for a short time we’ll be handing out ‘quit kits’ to visitors who feel it might help curb their cravings while they are here visiting a loved one,” said Christina Deidesheimer, director of Marketing and Public Relations.
Some of the items in the quit kits might include a piece of gum, a mint and a straw. The health system also plans to make readily available the National Quit Line.
“The goal is to educate patients and visitors about our new policy and to do it in a supportive and friendly environment,” said Kevin Fowler, system chief executive officer. “We will be enforcing this policy, but we will always promote a professional and friendly attitude when doing so. We’ll also be offering short-term alternatives for those who need them. Something else we’ll be doing is starting smoking cessation classes. We are going to offer them free of charge, because our goal is to help anyone who wants to quit tobacco make that choice without any financial burden.”
“This is something I mentioned when I started back in 2010, and I’m glad we’ve been able to make the leap. To have two completely tobacco-free campuses will be a big step in the right direction in terms of what we are trying to do for our patients in Eastern Oklahoma,” Fowler said.