Beginning in 2015, New Brunswick’s Health Networks have become leaders in the growing movement for developing more outdoor spaces free of second-hand smoke.

In September 2015, Horizon Health Network announced the launch of a new, very ambitious policy aimed at making all outdoor spaces on its properties – including hospitals and health facilities across the province – smoke-free. This initiative, called Smoke-Free Together, debuted at the Saint John Regional Hospital, which became the first hospital to be completely smoke-free in the province. Other healthcare facilities managed by Horizon Health Network are to follow gradually within the 12 months following the official launch of the new policy.

Vitalité Health Network also worked through the past few months in preparing the implementation of its’ Smoke-Free Environment policy on January 1st 2016, making all its hospital and clinic properties smoke-free.

Under the new smoke-free outdoor environment policy, all of Vitalité Health Network’s properties are to be 100 % smoke-free and all of Horizon Health Network’s properties are to be 100 % smoke-free by September 2016. All tobacco products/medical marijuana/herbal products intended to be smoked or heated, e-cigarettes/ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) or any other smoking devices are prohibited on hospital and healthcare facility properties, including inside any vehicle parked on their grounds. The policy applies to all employees, volunteers, students, patients, visitors, vendors, contractors and others who work in or visit the hospital or healthcare facility buildings, parking lots, and grounds.

Karelle Guignard Registered Nurse, is the coordinator for the Smoking Cessation Program at Vitalité Health Network. She worked closely with the team leaders behind the Smoke-Free Together initiative at Horizon Health Network, Ms. Kerrie Luck and Dr. Robert Stevenson, to help Vitalité Health Network introduce the same policy for its establishments.

“Thanks to the innovative, pioneering work done by our colleagues at Horizon Health Network, we were able to quickly take action and implement the same policy in our own facilities,” says Guignard. “We follow the same formula and are using the same tools as Horizon Health Network. We also standardized our promotional material with theirs in order to maintain consistency in the messaging to both our clients.

The tools and resources developed by Horizon Health Network that were adapted by Vitalité Health Network include an internal web page with plenty of information and resources, such as videos showing how to approach a smoker, FAQs, links to smoking cessation resources and information on the tools developed to help staff, patients, and visitors respect the new policy. Finally, many banners and posters inform visitors of the smoke-free policy. Visitors are encouraged to discuss Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) options with their pharmacist if they plan to visit a smoke-free hospital or healthcare facility property for extended periods of time.

Moreover, it is important that the public be aware that each patient admitted to a Vitalité Health Network hospital is screened for tobacco use and given NRT so that he/she can be comfortable and doesn’t feel the need to go outside and smoke. ” Patients admitted to Vitalité Health Network hospitals receive support and education to ensure their comfort during their stay in one of our hospitals. We also offer them nicotine replacement therapies to alleviate the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, following the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation (OMSC) guidelines,” says Guignard.

The bulk of the work in implementing such a policy has been the preparation time required to properly train employees on how to offer patient support and get employees who are smokers used to the idea that they will not be able to spend their breaks smoking near entrances anymore, and to give them alternatives.

“We started a smoking cessation program for employees in October 2015,” says Guignard. “We offer them tips and strategies for smoking cessation, and we offer free nicotine replacement therapies (nicotine gum and patch). In the first month, we had 116 employees taking part in this program. And now, in January 2016, with our new smoke-free policy officially in place, we can proudly say that we have 200 employees who have joined our smoking cessation program.”

“I was a smoker for 30 years, and I used to smoke two packs of cigarettes per day,” says Nicole Boutot, an employee from Grand Falls Hospital. “I would never have managed to quit smoking without the employee assistance program for smoking cessation and the counseling I received. I felt supported in the process. I was given tips to succeed, and I felt encouraged to make the right choice.”

Another Vitalité Health Network employee adds (anonymous): “I have been part of the smoking cessation program since October 26, and it works very well because I have not felt the urge to smoke since the very beginning of this program. I don’t even need nicotine gum. The program is well structured and adapted to the needs of each individual, and I think it is for this reason that the methods used to help us quit work so easily. I feel really good, I have more energy and I no longer have headaches. It’s worth a try!”

Guignard says that the key to Vitalité Health Network moving so rapidly in the implementation of the smoke-free environment policy is the fact that every hospital and Extra-Mural Program is provided with the tools and information needed to train its employees on compliance with the policy and is responsible for managing the policy internally. Each Vitalité Health Network establishement must enforce and respect a smoke-free zone surrounding its entire property to the best of its abilities.

Guignard and the committee responsible for leading the Smoke-Free Environment policy are very excited about the launch and implementation of the Smoke-Free Together initiative at Vitalité Health Network. “We’ve been talking about setting up a smoke-free outdoor environment policy at Vitalité since 2012,” she says. “Our colleagues from the Horizon Health Network helped put the wheels in motion, and we felt New Brunswickers were finally ready for a policy of this magnitude. These days, the public is well aware of the advantages of embracing healthy lifestyles, and they want to enjoy safe, healthy spaces. More and more people are demanding smoke-free spaces.”

Hospitals and healthcare facilities must show leadership when it comes to advocating for the public’s well-being,” she adds. “We know that second-hand smoke is dangerous, and we want to limit exposure to it as much as possible.”

Planning on visiting a Vitalité Health Network hospital? Here are some resources to help you prepare:

  • Signs are posted at the entrances to parking lots of each hospital to inform you of the smoke-free policy. Smaller signs and posters are also placed in strategic locations.
  • Brochures showing the delimitations of the hospitals smoke-free zones are available at the information services desk and from security services at each hospital.
  • A Smoking Cessation program is available to people in the community who want to quit smoking. You can contact the hospital in your area and check with its respiratory therapy clinic.
  • For residents in the Beauséjour region, a Smoking Cessation clinic is offered. Please call (506) 869-2446 to register for this program or to obtain more information.
  • Information:

Photos and story used with permission from Vitalité Health Network.

Published in February 2016

By Nathalie Landry – NBATC Communications Coordinator