General Hospital to extinguish smoking

You can’t light up in San Francisco bars, restaurants, transit stops or parks anymore. Now, one of the most stressful workplace environments in The City will just say no to smoking.

Starting July 1, lighting up anywhere on the campus of San Francisco General Hospital will be off-limits — banned from the gardens, loading docks and even parking areas. Smoking is already banned inside the hospital building.

Ashtrays will be uprooted and swapped with no-smoking signs, and those wanting their fix will have to trek off-campus to the city sidewalks and beyond to light up, hospital officials said.

Upon admission, patients will be asked to sign an agreement to refrain from smoking while at the hospital and will no longer be allowed to leave the unit to smoke, according to a Department of Public Health memo.

“The obvious reason is this is a public-health initiative for us,” said Delvecchio Finley, associate administrator for support services at SFGH. “People who are admitted are here to heal and in order to take care of them, we want to discourage behavior that might add to their illness.”

SFGH will become one of only a few city hospitals that have become completely smoke-free. UCSF, Kaiser San Francisco and Chinese Hospital, among others, have already prohibited smoking.

Kaiser spokeman Randy Wittorp said that there have not been any complaints or enforcement problems since the campus became smoke-free on April 22.

At a meeting of San Francisco’s Health Commission on Tuesday, the head of SFGH, Gene O’Connell, said that he expected the staff, not the patients, to have the most difficult time with the change.

Suzy Bikakis, an occupational therapist at SFGH who does not smoke, said she imagined the ban would be difficult to enforce.

“Our patients will do whatever they please — they’ll smoke in hallways and stairwalls,” said Bikakis. She said that she had heard that even some staff members have smoked inside the building.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who earlier this month submitted legislation that would make San Francisco the first city in the nation to ban the sale of tobacco in pharmacies, said the ban at San Francisco’s public hospital makes sense.

“I know that there’s a lot of stress associated with being down there, and visiting a family member or a loved one who may be injured, but at the same time, it’s a health institution,” Newsom said.

San Francisco began banning smoking in city parks in June 2005 and at transit stops in May 2006. Legislation submitted in April by Supervisor Chris Daly would make secondhand smoke in public spaces a “public health nuisance.”

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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