Alegent Health, Methodist Health System Enact Tobacco Ban
Release Date: 11/15/2006

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OMAHA, Neb.—On the 30th anniversary of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, the Metropolitan area’s largest and oldest health care systems are marking the event by snuffing out all tobacco use on their properties. Effective Nov. 16, 2006, tobacco use is banned at all Alegent Health and Methodist Health System owned and leased properties, inside and out, including company vehicles. This joint policy was first announced last year, to protect patients, visitors, employees and physicians from the adverse effects of tobacco products.

“This is an exciting day for the Alegent Health family and the patients we serve. In November of last year, we stood together with Methodist Health System and pledged to be completely tobacco-free by this date. And today we’ve kept that promise,” said Alegent Health CEO Wayne Sensor. “Studies show the lethal effects that smoking, tobacco products and even second-hand smoke have on the human body. As a healthcare leader in the community, Alegent Health feels it is our moral obligation to stand firm on our pledge to not allow harmful behaviors like smoking take place on our properties.”

Methodist Health System President and CEO Steve Long said health care providers have an obligation to create and maintain a healthier environment for anyone who seeks treatment at their facilities. “By banning the use of all tobacco products on our properties, we are taking a big step toward helping our patients, visitors and staff gain control of their health. If any place should be smoke free, it’s a health care facility,” Long said.

Sensor and Long jointly announced the formation of the Tobacco Free for Health Coalition a year ago, pledging to be tobacco free by Nov. 16, 2006. The hospitals instituting this tobacco-free policy include Bergan Mercy Medical Center, Immanuel Medical Center, Lakeside Hospital, Methodist Hospital and Select Specialty Hospital in Omaha, Midlands Hospital and Select Specialty Hospital in Papillion, Jennie Edmundson Hospital and Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs, Memorial Hospital in Schuyler (Neb.), Community Memorial Hospital in Missouri Valley (Iowa) and Mercy Hospital in Corning (Iowa). The tobacco ban also extends to medical clinics owned and operated by the health systems.

Since making the public announcement, both health systems have put up signs announcing the year-long implementation of the tobacco-free initiative. Since January, Alegent Health has offered tobacco cessation classes and alternatives to tobacco while on campus for both employees and the public. Methodist is assisting its employees through an incentive to help pay for enrollment in a smoking cessation program that combines the use of nicotine replacement products and behavioral change through its EAP. QuitSmart classes are available to the public and nicotine replacement products will be available for purchase in the hospital gift shop.

Beginning Nov. 16, 2006 patients and visitors found using tobacco products on a health system property will be provided with information outlining the Tobacco Free for Health Policy and a list of smoking cessation educational opportunities. In addition, all employees will have received training on the new policy and how to address issues that might arise. Any employee found in direct violation of the initiative will initially be reminded of the tobacco-free policy and any subsequent violations will result in corrective action and possible termination.

According to the American Cancer Society, 1,000 Nebraska residents will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006, resulting in 930 deaths. The organization’s leadership is pleased that two health care organizations have united together for the benefit of the public’s health and hope their example will inspire others. "The American Cancer Society is pleased that Alegent and Methodist have become 100 percent tobacco free facilities," says Joy King, regional vice president for the American Cancer Society. "And what better day to enforce this new policy then on the 30th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout. We hope that other businesses and health care organizations throughout Nebraska will follow suit."

Alegent Health is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa with nine acute care hospitals, more than 100 sites of service, over 1,200 physicians on its medical staff and roughly 8,500 employees. Alegent Health is making healthcare better with an exceptional commitment to quality and by providing patient focused care for the body, mind and spirit of every person. At Alegent Health, patients and their families find a continuum of care, from women's and children's services, primary care, wellness counseling, and senior care to cardiovascular services, orthopaedics, oncology, physical rehabilitation and behavioral health. Alegent Health is sponsored by Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems.

Methodist Health System, Inc., (MHS) is a leading regional integrated health care delivery system that brings together major health care organizations from across the region to provide quality health care and preventive services to residents throughout the Midwest. Founded in 1982 as the first health care system formed in the region, MHS has more than 5,000 employees and nearly 800 physicians on active staff. The health system strives to ensure that its programs and services, and those of its affiliate corporations, are of superior value and readily available to all residents of the regions it serves. MHS is made up of Nebraska Methodist Hospital Foundation, Nebraska Methodist Hospital, Jennie Edmundson Hospital, Physicians Clinic, Nebraska Methodist College – The Josie Harper Campus, Methodist Health Partners, Healthcare Partners Of Western Iowa, Inc. and Shared Service Systems.