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Colorado Springs company will not hire tobacco users

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services plans to stop hiring tobacco users beginning Jan. 1 — a move meant to make its hospitals healthier despite concerns it could discriminate against smokers.

The new policy by Centura Health, the local system’s parent, comes amid other changes at Penrose-St. Francis aimed at improving employees’ health, said Margaret Sabin, Penrose-St. Francis’ president and chief executive. For example, the system plans to ban soda sales starting in 2015.

She framed each initiative as a chance to be role models for the community — while possibly saving lives by compelling people to stop smoking.

“We are walking our talk, in that our mission is to improve the health of the community we serve,” Sabin said.

Similar tobacco-user hiring bans across the nation have garnered criticism for possibly preventing the best doctors from serving patients, while punishing people for a legal, highly addictive activity that is difficult to quit.

Such policies first sprung up in the 1980s, but their popularity began surging about four years ago among hospitals and health care providers, often as a means to cut health care costs, said Michael Siegel, a professor with the Boston University School of Public Health who studies tobacco use.

Related: E-cigarettes’ popularity brings shops to Midland.

He said the ban could create a slippery slope to restricting hiring for other behaviors. At what point, opponents say, will employers limit hiring based on obesity or motorcycle use?

Workers rights advocates also have cast doubt on the policy’s effectiveness in curbing smoking.

“Hospitals are trying to buff their image in the community, at the expense of their own patients’ health,” said Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute.

Current employees, or people hired though Dec. 31, are not subject to the tobacco ban. It would not affect people seeking promotions, nor contractors working for Penrose-St. Francis, Sabin said.

People applying after that date, however, must first get tested for cotinine, a substance found in tobacco products, which results from the body breaking down nicotine. Anyone testing positive must wait 90 days before reapplying, the company said.

The chemical also exists in nicotine patches often used by people trying to quit smoking, and people wearing the patch cannot be hired, Sabin said. She noted hospital officials would have no way of knowing if a positive test came from a patch or any other tobacco products, Sabin said.

If employees hired after Jan. 1 are caught smoking, they could be fired because being tobacco-free was a condition of their hiring, Sabin said.

“Certainly we would engage in everything we could to encourage that associate toward a healthier lifestyle,” she said.

A hospital spokesman was uncertain Thursday whether the use of electronic cigarettes also was prohibited.

Sabin said Penrose-St. Francis has no plans for limiting hiring for other lifestyle choices.

“The data for smoking is so overwhelming,” Sabin said. “It kills people, and therefore as a health care organization, we probably shouldn’t promote it.”

The policy evoked mixed reactions from smokers working on the campus, both for Centura Health and for unaffected health care providers leasing space there. Several believe it discriminated against smokers, even those who have tried repeatedly to quit.

Some people said smokers simply wouldn’t apply to work for Centura Health.

Thomas Chmielewski, a lab technician at Rocky Mountain Cancer Center at the Penrose Hospital campus, said he would try to kick the habit.

“If I needed the job, I would probably quit,” Chmielewski said.

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @JakobRodgers 

6 comments

  1. So St. Francis Health Services won’t hire the president of the United States??? When will the “obese” be banned from employment with St. Francis? Today’s medicine in “prevention” where the victim gets the blame and ad agencies reap the rewards. The “public health” mafia has gone money mad!!

    Rob Moffatt
    rmoffatt3@gmail.com

    • Perhaps St. Francis should concentrate on preventing Their own medical mistakes instead of promoting segregation and hate (denormalizaition). The “native advertising” (payola fraud) of “social engineering” (eugenics) using “denormalization” (segregation and hate) tactics to “nudge” (bully) behavior changes are what need to be banned.

      Death By Medicine

      ABSTRACT

      A definitive review and close reading of medical peer-review journals, and government health statistics shows that American medicine frequently causes more harm than good. The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million.1 Dr. Richard Besser, of the CDC, in 1995, said the number of unnecessary antibiotics prescribed annually for viral infections was 20 million. Dr. Besser, in 2003, now refers to tens of millions of unnecessary antibiotics.2, 2a

      The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million.3 The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million.4 The total number of iatrogenic deaths shown in the following table is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. The 2001 heart disease annual death rate is 699,697; the annual cancer death rate, 553,251.5

      http://www.whale.to/a/null9.html

      • These iatrogenic deaths are real deaths, real people real names, real families not some defective “public health” mafia computer model (SAMMEC) generated stats where no real deaths or real people are involved..

  2. So St. Francis Health Services won’t hire the president of the United States??? When will the “obese” be banned from employment with St. Francis? Today’s medicine in “prevention” where the victim gets the blame and ad agencies reap the rewards. The “public health” mafia has gone money mad!!

    Perhaps St. Francis should concentrate on preventing Their own medical mistakes instead of promoting segregation and hate (denormalizaition). The “native advertising” (payola fraud) of “social engineering” (eugenics) using “denormalization” (segregation and hate) tactics to “nudge” (bully) behavior changes are what need to be banned.

    Death By Medicine

    ABSTRACT

    A definitive review and close reading of medical peer-review journals, and government health statistics shows that American medicine frequently causes more harm than good. The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million.1 Dr. Richard Besser, of the CDC, in 1995, said the number of unnecessary antibiotics prescribed annually for viral infections was 20 million. Dr. Besser, in 2003, now refers to tens of millions of unnecessary antibiotics.2, 2a

    The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million.3 The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million.4 The total number of iatrogenic deaths shown in the following table is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. The 2001 heart disease annual death rate is 699,697; the annual cancer death rate, 553,251.5

    http://www.whale.to/a/null9.html

    These iatrogenic deaths are real deaths, real people real names, real families not some defective “public health” mafia computer model (SAMMEC) generated stats where no real deaths or real people are involved..

  3. There is far too much confusion on this type of issue of late. It really is disappointing that we can no longer rely on the medical profession, to show leadership and distinguish that confusion in a more professional light. The World health Organization follows the traditional UN agency modeling of making Dictators and the underwhelming leaders of third world governments fall in line. That of it’s immense extortionate powers, by refusing aid dollars in search of conformity. So it really isn’t all that difficult to understand that the carrot and the stick can be used in other ways. In this case those ways included making a smoker’s life as difficult as possible with an extensive over use of the stick, in order to make them quit smoking. While the environment demands innovation direct new and more abusive ways to impose the will of the industry on those who fail to comply. No one is actually afraid of tobacco smoke and one would actually feel foolish pretending to run from a room, where a smoker is lighting up. Many would impose feelings of rage and disgust, toward the smell of smoking, but only a rare few would actually claim to be harmed by the smoke and hope to maintain credibility. Denormalization as it is described is the current prescription for smoking. We see it in special taxes, smoking bans, limited access to one’s own children, Social stigma and of course restrictions on housing and employment at the barrels bottom of social derision, from people now seen as a separate species, not worthy of respect the necessities of life or empathy. Certainly receiving far too much of what society has to offer them, as evidenced by their continuing to smoke. But what of this strategy this making people not normal as an activity of medical oversight? Does it do more good than harm, in the prospects of not only long life but quality of life issues? Is there any room to improve, or is the process the new norm of medicine that can be ethically or should we say “normally” applied to others for any number of reasons willful or not? If we examine the denormalized and the empowerment to make them change. The article states these people are engaged in “highly addictive activity that is difficult to quit.” Addiction suggests much more than a habit rather it requires a loss of control, that requires more than simple hate and wagging fingers to cure. The term “difficult to quit” seems almost self empowering in that sense, making an excuse for something much worse than smoking, especially when it originates in a medical organization. The criticism that is brushed aside in the article, might have some real and legitimate foundations. The war on drugs or the war on smoking isn’t a battle for real estate it is a battle for the control of someones mind and body and that war can never be legitimized, as a moral or ethical activity among people sworn to do no harm. When doing harm is the strategy employed what is truly gained? If medicine is accommodating paternalism, judgmental medicine and denormalization what can they now tell us, was opposed during the second world war. A time that distinguished the Doctors of that era, as something different to what we see today? This is a mistake and in time medicine and medical ethics will see declines that far outweigh the declines we see among smokers. Is the unintended consequences of where we are going, really worth the self sanctimony gained in a smoking restriction that has nothing ethically or morally, to gain.

    The term “Physician heal thyself” somehow seems entirely appropriate here.

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