WENATCHEE, Wash. -- Dawn Sims is a rebel with a wheelchair. She's having hip surgery, but still needs her smokes. That’s making her an outcast on her hospital’s campus.
“If you're smoking anywhere on the campus, you'll get told on and you’ll get in trouble for smoking,” she said, taking a drag on a sunny spring day.
Central Washington Hospital has enacted a complete tobacco ban on campus. The two outdoor smoking areas on hospital grounds are now smoke-free.
So, patients, doctors and nurses are now stepping onto the public sidewalk, just inches off campus, to light up. Sometimes they even huddle behind or inside cars.
Sims thinks the hospital is being heavy handed.
“I met a lady out here smoking. She just found out her husband is terminally ill. This is not going to be the time that she's going to quit smoking,” Sims said.
With the hospital now pushing smokers out on the street, they become the public's problem. Neighbors living just across the road are now complaining that smokers are polluting their air. Those neighbors say they're sick of the stink and of cigarette butts littering their lawns. They believe the hospital should just create a smoking section away from homes.
Administrators are adamant they will not do that.
“It sends a mixed message,” said Chief Nursing Officer Tracey Kasnic.
Instead, the hospital is offering patients nicotine patches and offering employees health insurance incentives to stop smoking.
“I think that we need to take a stand here and say that we are an institution for wellness. Many other hospitals have done this successfully, and we can, too,” said Kasnic.
Hospital administrators say they are seeing fewer people smoking since the ban went into effect.
“That’s what this is all about,” said Kasnic.
The hospital has hired a consultant to figure out how to handle the problem with the neighbors.
As for Sims, she said no to the patch and yes to her addiction. She’s not alone.
“I will find a way out here, and I know everybody else who smokes will find their way out here, too,” said Sims.