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Tobacco butting out of hospital grounds

Hemera/Ablestock/Thinkstock Graphic

Tobacco is being snuffed out completely at the hospital and a couple of nursing homes in the area.

Effective January 1, 2011, Douglas County Hospital, Knute Nelson and Galeon of Osakis will become tobacco-free grounds.

PrimeWest Health is also working toward implementing a tobacco-free grounds policy and will have an effective date in the near future, according to Douglas County Public Health.

While all are tobacco-free inside, the new policy has expanded to prohibit the use of tobacco products on all grounds, parking lots and property.

"To promote a healthier environment for our community, visitors, and staff, Douglas County Hospital is committed to providing the healthiest environment possible for our patients, employees, visitors, and volunteers," said Bill Flaig, administrator.

Flaig added that the hospital chose this course of action after careful consideration and consultation with peer hospitals and its own medical and administrative staff.

"As a healthcare institution, we feel this is the right thing to do," he said.

The efforts of this work are being funded by a grant through the Minnesota Department of Health as part of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP).

It is led by a team of representatives from schools, public health, worksites and healthcare systems from the five counties of Douglas, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Grant.

These counties have joined together to form West Central Wellness, a regional effort to bring about policy, system, and environmental changes addressing the top three causes of preventable illness and death in Minnesota. This included tobacco use, physical inactivity and obesity, and poor nutrition.

These risk factors have a major impact on health care costs for all Minnesotans. The SHIP grant work is projected to realize an estimated $1.9 billion health care savings in Minnesota by 2015, according to public health experts.

"The dangerous effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke are well documented; community members who live, work, and visit our facilities deserve to be better protected from its harmful health effects including heart disease, lung and other cancers, stroke, asthma, and emphysema," said Mark Anderson, president/CEO of Knute Nelson. "We appreciate our partnerships to collaboratively be tobacco-free communities."

Dave Carlson, administrator and CEO of Galeon of Osakis, said the decision came down to recognizing what is best for people's health.

"The traditional medical model of entitled care and rehabilitation is overwhelmed these days," Carlson said. "Like each of us, Galeon has a responsibility to do everything possible for our employees and those we serve to stay healthy and prevent chronic disease. It is time for us to become a tobacco-free campus because we know that prevention works."

During the upcoming months prior to implementation, there will be opportunities for the affected employees to take part in smoking cessation classes.

Beyond January 1, 2011, no smoking or use of tobacco products will be permitted on any property owned by Douglas County Hospital, Knute Nelson and Galeon.

This new policy will apply to all employees, residents, clinicians, visitors and patients.

PrimeWest Health will be developing a timeline for implementation and will release more information in the near future.

"We are excited to make these healthy changes for our employees" said Jim Przybilla, CEO of PrimeWest Health.

Going forward, West Central Wellness will continue to support Douglas County Hospital, Knute Nelson, Galeon and PrimeWest Health in becoming tobacco-free grounds, as well as work with other interested businesses in the area, according to Amy Reineke at Douglas County Public Health.

Recently there was a meeting held with several other businesses interested in also becoming tobacco free in the near future, Reineke said.

If you are interested in collaborating efforts with these businesses and West Central Wellness or would like more information, contact Reineke at (320) 762-3079.