Eastern Health thinks in mysterious ways

Peter Jackson
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If Vancouver can set up a facility where drug addicts can safely break the law, surely a handful of smokers should be able to sneak out behind a building.

A local union boss was shocked to learn a couple of weeks ago that health-care managers had been tasked to root out any nicotine-stained staff who've been puffing ciggies on Eastern Health property. That includes parking lots, remote corners of buildings and even uncut areas of wilderness.

Granted, no one denies a health authority should ban smoking.

It just makes sense.

But how far should they go to smoke the smokers out of their holes?

Having been a hospital "patron" in recent years, I've seen these smokers in action.

They hide under outdoor stairwells and around unpopulated corners of buildings. I came across them during convalescent walks around the grounds, in areas where one rarely expects to encounter fellow humans.

Being a former smoker, I actually felt a little sorry for them.

They are treated, in every sense of the word, like outlaws.

It's just another example of how Eastern Health thinks in mysterious ways.

Take the new "patient rights and responsibilities" policy unveiled last week.

The directive spells out the rights of patients to speak up and ask questions about their health.

It also asks patients to show the same decorum and respect they expect from health-care staff.

In a nutshell, the message is, "We're doing our best; meet us halfway."

Fair enough.

But in spelling out such policies, the board tends to elevate health care to a new plane.

The customers

No longer is a hospital a place where people are obliged to go when they need their appendix out, or to visit an ailing auntie.

There's a new language now, one that turns patients and visitors into "clients" and "patrons," and may lead you to think you're booking a stay at the Ritz Carlton.

Here's how Eastern Health CEO Vicki Kaminski described the new ground rules last week.

The new guidelines, she said, "will guide us in our efforts to provide the best care possible to those we serve and ensure their stay in one of our facilities is a positive experience."

Positive experience?

Chocolates on our pillow, perhaps, or towels shaped like swans?

If you're lying in on a stretcher or visiting a sick relative, the most you can hope for is an experience free of nasty surprises.

Only in the most abstract sense are you likely to consider it a "positive experience."

Rest assured, though, you won't catch any of the staff smoking around the back of the building. Such offenders, management assures, will be soundly thrashed.

It's a curious way to look at health care.

In some ways, it distracts from the real mission at hand.

Keeping smokers out of the hallways and doorways is a no-brainer, for example, but is playing cat and mouse with them on the lawn an efficient use of resources?

Perhaps more energy could be focused on food services, and the need for more healthy alternatives. Perhaps they could ban Tim Hortons doughnuts in hospitals, like the health board in Nova Scotia did in May.

A step too far?

Well, if you're going to dictate a healthy environment, you should be consistent.

Filling up on sugar and fat is surely as unhealthy as catching a whiff of a lit cigarette on your way to the parking lot.

So, here's my take.

Staff should stop lighting up in public areas.

Eastern Health, on the other hand, needs to lighten up.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's commentary editor. Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Ritz Carlton, Tim Hortons

Geographic location: Eastern Health, Vancouver, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

    June 29, 2011 - 16:36

    The headline "Eastern Health thinks mysterious ways"could not be more spot on. Until it is disbanded and those "thinkers" put out to grass, there will be no improvement in our Health Care. When oh when are the government going to realise their mistake and get us back to the old system.

    June 29, 2011 - 10:20

    The word client has been in us in St. John's hospitals for 20+ years now. As for smokers, all seem to outright flaunt the rules, so sometimes the heavy measure seems to be needed unfortunately. Smokers utterly ignored the blue lines indicating the perimeter they couldn't go past, so the newer rules came into effect. HSC security seems to be scared to enforce the no smaoking rules.

    June 29, 2011 - 10:14

    very interesting. the gentlemen that wrote the article is named after a cigeratte.

  • james
    June 29, 2011 - 09:47

    unions again, why don,t we just let the unions run the province

  • Aub
    June 29, 2011 - 08:27

    Where do the smoking doctors go???

  • mb
    June 29, 2011 - 07:51

    Decorum and respect? Ask the crowd on the 7th floor if they know those words! As for smoking, I don't smoke but I can recognize that is an addiction, therefore an illness, 'health' authorities should be able to find a less heavy handed way to deal with it!

  • W BAgg
    June 29, 2011 - 07:17

    Eastern Health "Corporation".................."clients and patrons"..................."CEO" Sound like a hospital or company