With the last of the smoke shacks soon to be removed and signs going up reminding associates, patients and visitors of the impending change, St. Catherine Hospital is set to become a tobacco-free campus on Nov. 21.

While the hospital has long prohibited smoking inside its buildings, it has been moving toward being a completely smoke- and tobacco-free workplace. On the 21st, coinciding with the national Great American Smokeout event, the hospital and all Centura Health-owned and St. Catherine-managed properties in Garden City and Dodge City will become tobacco-free.

In doing so, St. Catherine will be joining a majority of hospitals in Kansas that are tobacco-free, including Bob Wilson Memorial Hospital in Ulysses.

According to the statement of policy, “Centura is committed to promoting and providing a healthy and safe environment for patients, families, visitors, and associates. Recognizing that smoking and tobacco use-related illnesses are preventable, it is our responsibility to take a leadership role to reduce and encourage cessation of smoking and tobacco use.”

St. Catherine’s policy applies to all Centura-owned properties in Garden City and Dodge City and would prohibit anyone on property from smoking or using tobacco products in the facilities or anywhere on facility grounds.

Prohibited tobacco products will include, but not be limited to, the use of pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, cigarettes, marijuana, e-cigarettes and personal vaporizers.

The premises that will fall under the policy will include Centura-owned or leased facilities — to include Plaza Medical Center, Heartland Cancer Center, Siena Medical Clinic, and Convenient Care Clinic in Garden City and Dodge City Medical Center — offices, grounds, parking lots/ramps, company owned vehicles, sidewalks and surrounding areas.

The goals of the policy are to create a healthier environment for everyone who works in or visits the hospital and clinic campuses by eliminating second-hand smoke, demonstrate a commitment to improving the health of the entire community and to set an example for other organizations and businesses to follow.

On the day the new policy will be implemented, St. Catherine will be removing the last remaining smoke shack — covered locations that have been designated for tobacco use — on campus.

“It only makes sense that St. Catherine Hospital is in the forefront to demonstrate that,” said Donna Gerstner, Chronic Disease Risk Reduction coordinator for LiveWell Finney County who has helped spearhead tobacco and smoking cessation initiatives in the community, in a press release. “To me, by them taking this step, it shows the rest of the community that ‘Hey, if they’re doing it, we should be doing it.’”

The benefits of the policy are many, Gerstner said. By prohibiting the use of tobacco products on Centura grounds, it not only limits exposure to second-hand smoke, but third-hand smoke, as well. Reducing the amount of litter on Centura property caused by tobacco products is also a benefit, she said.

The move also will help encourage some people to quit smoking, whether they are Centura associates or frequent patients or visitors, Gerstner said. Centura already has a policy that it will not hire tobacco users as all employment offers are contingent on the satisfactory completion of a drug and health screening that prohibits the use of tobacco products.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as of 2017, 14% of adults in Finney County smoke, compared to 17.4% in Kansas. KDHE states that tobacco is the cause of death for more than 4,400 Kansans every year and is the root cause of many illnesses and lost productivity, and tobacco use in Kansas accounts for more than $1.12 billion in health care costs each year.

St. Catherine will provide support to associates, visitors and patients who wish to stop using tobacco products through education and tobacco cessation programs, such as KanQuit, the Kansas Tobacco Quitline that offers online cessation counseling by live chat and email. KanQuit is online at KSQuit.org and can be reached at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).

“The thing about St. Catherine Hospital, they’re like the third-largest employer here in Finney County,” Gerstner said in the release. “By making this campus tobacco-free, hopefully there’ll be some people that quit (smoking), and that alone is going to be huge..."