Baptist Health Care adopts tobacco-free hiring

Published 8:15 pm Friday, July 5, 2013

Being a smoker in Atmore may cost you more than just the extra money for a pack of cigarettes soon – as of January, it could cost you a job.

Beginning on the first day of 2014, Baptist Health Care, which owns and operates Atmore Community Hospital, will no longer consider tobacco users for employment, according to information released Wednesday by the health care system.

While current employees who use tobacco will not be affected by the policy, the company will require all new hires to be non-tobacco users as of January 1, 2014. According to information released by Public Relations Specialists Carmela Cook, the new protocol is part of an effort by Baptist Health Care and Sacred Heart Health System to encourage healthy lifestyles among employees. Officials with BHS say the tobacco cessation assistance currently offered to existing team members will also continue.

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According to the release, BHC and SHHS recently worked with the Partnership for a Healthy Community (PFAHC) on an assessment of the state of health in the two-county area that includes Escambia and Santa Rosa.

“Results revealed discouraging statistics related to tobacco use, obesity and health management,” the release reads.

Mark T. Faulkner, president and CEO of Baptist Health Care, said he feels the move is a shift in the right direction.

“I feel confident that this is a change in the right direction for our team members,” Faulkner said. “As health care providers we need to provide an environment that supports and encourages health and wellness to improve the quality of life in our community.”

BHS’ decision to adhere to tobacco-free hiring is a trend that has gained momentum in the U.S. over the last several years, especially in the health-care industry.

Susan Davis, president and CEO of Sacred Heart Health System, said the move was due.

“As health care providers we need to set the example for our community and demonstrate healthy living habits,” Davis said. “This effort by the two hospitals will go a long way in creating a better experience for our patients and visitors.”

According to the release, on May 10, around 200 individuals representing more than 50 businesses and civic organizations attended the PFAHC Community Health Summit to learn about the current conditions and the impact on health care costs, the area economy and the future of the community.

According to BHS officials, the “It Starts with Me” theme challenged attendees to commit to the Community Health Improvement Compact, which is a formal voluntary agreement in which organizations identify initiatives they will adopt to impact performance on targeted community health priorities. As part of their commitment, leadership at BHC and SHHS agreed their two organizations will not hire people who smoke or use other tobacco products.

BHC and SHHS became smoke-free campuses in 2010. The company has not yet released details on whether or not new employees will be tested for nicotine use or will simply rely on the honor system; however, official said employees with Gulf Coast Enterprises will be exempt from the new requirements due to specialized hiring processes.