2008-01-03 / Health

Mercy Hospital starts new year 'smoke-free'

Jeanne Hufnagel knows the dangers of smoking. She's a registered nurse and director of the Ausable Free Clinic on the edge of the Mercy Hospital Grayling campus.

A smoker since she was 12, she feels confident that earlier this fall she snuffed out the habit for good with the help of a prescription medication.

"It blocks the nicotine receptors, so you don't want any nicotine, " she said. "After two weeks, you don't even think about cigarettes any more, even when you watch somebody smoke. "

Hufnagel is one of several employees at Mercy Hospital Grayling's campus affected by the new smoke-free policy which took effect Jan. 1. While the hospital did not allow smoking inside the building, the new policy includes all hospital property.

CEO Stephanie Riemer- Matuzak said the hospital is joining the Michigan Health and Hospital Association's commitment to become smoke and tobacco-free for the new year. The policy affects the hospital, long-term care facility and Mercy Family Care clinics in Grayling, Prudenville and Roscommon.

"As a health care facility, we want to provide an environment where healthy habits are practiced," she said.

Occupational Health Coordinator Nancy Goodyear said the hospital has produced a brochure about the new policy and distributed it to all inpatients and out-patients.

"We also have a newly trained Freedom From Smoking facilitator, " she said. "We will be offering classes to the public in mid-to-late January. " Since the policy was announced last year, several hospital employees have kicked the habit.

"I've had eight to 10 employees come to me for smoking cessation assistance, " Goodyear said. "There are others who have quit without our assistance, too. "

Proven benefits associated with quitting include: a higher quality of life; improved stamina; fresher breath and whiter teeth; improved ability to smell and taste; and more control over one's life.

Hufnagel said over the years she tried just about every method to stop smoking, including the nicotine patches, gum and other techniques. She encourages smokers interested in quitting to ask their physicians about the possibility of taking prescription medication.

"If you can get into one of the non-smoking groups, that also helps, " she said. "A person has to understand that they have lived under the control of those cigarettes."

For patients concerned about their hospital stay, Goodyear said those with planned admissions should consult with their physician about the possibility of smoking cessation aids while in the hospital.

Mercy Hospital Grayling remains committed to promoting health and wellness for all area residents, Riemer- Matuzak said. "We believe this will have a positive impact on the health of the community," she said.

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