A HILTON father and the Australian Medical Association have slammed WA’s health department for letting smoking outside Fiona Stanley Hospital get out of control.
Each day smokers haunt the public areas just outside the main entrance, with a low wall near a cafeteria alfresco and seats by a bus stop on Barry Marshall Drive among their favourite haunts. The cleaners can’t keep up or have given up, with thousands upon thousands of butts littering a nearby garden bed—just a metre from a bin warning people smoking’s not allowed anywhere on campus.
Software developer David Clark spent a couple of weeks in and out of FSH late last year following the unexpectedly early arrival of his second child and says steering his young daughter through the thick fug of smoke was a daily torment.
“I don’t understand why Fiona Stanley campus security don’t do anything about it, or seem not to,” Mr Clark said.
He says smoking at the bus stop was so bad that after antenatal checkups his wife had to wait nearly 50 metres away and then run, daughter in tow, when the bus appeared.
A recent broken finger sent Mr Clark back to the hospital and into the stink, prompting him to contact the Herald. He’s also planning to put his tech skills to good use and create a website aimed at embarrassing the health department into action.
The Australian Medical Association says it’s “bitterly disappointed” that no-smoking rules are ignored by smokers and not enforced.
“The issue has been brought up numerous times in the past by the AMA, to both the director general of health and the health minister for both Liberal and Labor governments, to no avail,” AMA (WA) vice president Mark Duncan-Smith told the Herald.
“We know that children exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma.
“There needs to be a change in how this problem is handled—it is completely unacceptable that sick patients and hospital staff are forced to walk through clouds of smoke to enter the hospital.”
“The state government needs to act on this—get tough on smokers with on-the-spot fines and ensure that security staff are properly policing this problem,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.
But that might not be so easy, with the health department this week doing a backflip and admitting its contract with private security provider Serco doesn’t cover policing smokers. When the Herald last covered this issue shortly after the hospital’s opening, the department had claimed it was Serco’s responsibility, but now acknowledges it’s not covered in the contract, which only stipulates the company’s staff are not permitted to light up at work.
The health department’s media coordinator Elise Holder sent through a statement saying additional no-smoking signage had been put up around campus while patients were offered nicotine replacement therapy.
“Cigarette butt disposal bins have also been installed on the boundary of the site to encourage smokers to extinguish cigarettes before entering the site,” the statement said.
It said further strategies are being investigated and said people concerned about smokers could call the hospital’s help desk.
According to the department Serco’s officers do patrol the grounds and ask people to stop smoking, but Mr Clark and the AMA scoff at this, saying a mountain of butts would suggest otherwise.
The AMA says it should be up to the authorities, not the public, to deal with the problem, pointing to the death of Melbourne surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann last year who was allegedly assaulted after confronting a smoker outside the Box Hill Hospital.
by STEVE GRANT