On October 5, 2016, the Moncton Hospital became the final hospital in the Horizon Health Network to join the Smoke-Free Environment Policy.

A ceremony was held in the hospital’s atrium to mark the event, with remarks from Mr. Chris Collins, MLA for Moncton Centre, Jean Daigle, Vice President Community for Horizon Health Network and Dr. Serge Melanson, Chief of Staff at The Moncton Hospital. Instead of cutting a ribbon to celebrate the new policy, the hospital hosted a ceremonial “butting out”.

“The event went very well. It’s a matter of health and safety for the patients, employees, and visitors,” explained Dr. Serge Melanson, Chief of Staff at the Moncton Hospital.

The policy states that both the hospital itself and its grounds are smoke-free. After being launched at the Saint John Regional Hospital on September 29, 2015, the policy was gradually implemented throughout the entire Horizon Health Network over the course of the past year.

“As a hospital, we promote healthy habits for our employees, our patients and our visitors, so we want to reduce the negative effects of second-hand smoke. To succeed, we need to completely get rid of cigarettes at the hospital and in its surroundings, whether its in the parking lot or sidewalks,” says Dr. Melanson.

At the Moncton Hospital, the October 5th ceremony was a success but it does not mark the end of the tobacco reduction efforts. Rather, Dr. Melanson sees this as a logical step in the evolution of the public’s perception about smoking.

“When you look at the hospital’s history, I’ve always found it interesting that on the front door of the doctors’ lounge, there’s a non-smoking sign from the 1970s. When you think about it, less than a generation ago, it was common to see doctors and patients smoking inside a hospital. I think that eventually, smoking will be even less accepted than it is today. We can play a role in this by encouraging our employees and our patients to be part of these efforts.”

Dr. Melanson says there have not been many challenges in the implementation of the policy. This can be explained by the careful preparation by hospital staff who communicated the changes to the public via a series of pamphlets, signs and media messages.

“You can see these around the hospital, but also in the parking lot. It makes it clear that we are now 100% smoke-free.”

The hospital also followed the other facilities within Horizon Health Network by offering cessation support to patients, many of whom decided to use this new policy as an opportunity to quit.

“We understand that those who smoke can have an addiction to nicotine. We’re here to offer support to our patients on a voluntarily basis. Many of them use this service, so we give them medicine which replaces the effects of nicotine, but also a medical follow-up, with our help and advice. All of this can help them to quit in the long-term,” notes Dr. Melanson.

Because the policy also applies to the employees of the Moncton Hospital, Dr. Melanson explains that the administration works hand in hand with the members of the staff in the implementation of the policy.

“The first step is to tell them that we can offer them free help and support, but that they can’t smoke at the hospital and the area next to it. We’re very proud that so far, 125 members of our staff have joined the program which gives them access to free cessation medication. Out of this, some have already stopped quitting completely.”

Dr. Melanson says that this policy has an impact beyond the site of the hospital; it gives the establishment a spotlight as a community leader in the Moncton area.

“So far, the reaction has been very positive. People were even surprised that we weren’t already 100% smoke-free. Since our mission is to have a healthy community, it’s great that we’re setting an example. I’m confident that other businesses in the private sector will come to realize the benefits of such a policy.”

Story and picture used with permission from the Horizon Health Network.

Published in November 2016

By Jean-Étienne Sheehy – NBATC Communications Coordinator