Age Action has urged the HSE to reverse its decision to introduce a smoke free campus policy to all public nursing homes and psychiatric facilities in the Midlands.
“These facilities have been, and continue to be, exempt from the 2003 smoking legislation, and the HSE’s decision to voluntarily impose the ban on residential facilities for older people will cause unnecessary hardship for residents,” Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins said.
Age Action does not condone smoking and strongly supports measures which help smokers quit. However, it believes the new ban will result in some older people experiencing undue hardship.
“There were good reasons why nursing homes and psychiatric facilities were exempt from the original smoking ban, and these reasons have not changed,” Mr Timmins said. “The benefits of forcing these older people to cease smoking must be balanced against the hardship it will cause for older people who have smoked for many years and some of whom have dementia and other psychiatric conditions. For those who wish to continue smoking, it will involve in them having to be accompanied off site to smoke, with the resultant strain on already scarce resources.”
Age Action stressed that nursing homes were first and foremost homes for their residents. “While we accept that smoking is damaging to a person’s health, up to now nursing home residents have been accommodated with smoking rooms or designated outdoor areas, enabling people to smoke as they would if they were at home,” Mr Timmins said.
“The HSE’s decision to introduce its smoke free campus policy to all HSE sites in the midlands from today is a marked change in this approach and will force smokers to leave the campus to smoke, and to be accompanied by staff to ensure their safety. For frail and vulnerable people this is not a satisfactory situation and the decision must be reversed as a matter of urgency.”
The HSE plans to extend the smoke free campus policy to all HSE sites by 2015.