Ottawa hospitals resolve to butt out New Year's Day

Patients, visitors and hospital workers wanting to light up in Ottawa will have to head off hospital grounds after changes to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act come into effect Monday.

Starting in 2018, visitors, patients and workers will have to go off hospital grounds to light up

A sign at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital designates the hospital grounds as smoke-free and refers people to for help to quit. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

Patients, visitors and hospital workers wanting to light up in Ottawa will have to head off hospital grounds after changes to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act come into effect Jan. 1.

Signs proclaiming hospital property smoke-free are already visible at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital, which did so in September, and at the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus.

However, not everyone seems ready to butt out just yet. On Thursday, some people were seen smoking on hospital grounds, including patients bundled in blankets and sitting in wheelchairs.

A patient at the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital smokes near the main entrance of the hospital, Dec. 28, 2017. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

As temperatures plunge across the city, employees said it can be difficult to make it off hospital property.

"They technically want us to go further away. So, sometimes I do go down to Baseline Road but it's a pretty far walk," said Tonya McMillan, who works at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital.

"Whenever I just have a couple minutes and run out for a quick smoke, I'll just come out to the other side of [John Sutherland Drive] super quick and hope bylaw doesn't pass by."

Not easy to get off the grounds, worker says

McMillan has heard workers and patients complain about having to go so far to smoke. Many workers often don't have a lot of time for a break and patients who use wheelchairs have problems travelling on snow, ice and salt covered sidewalks, she said.

But she understands the new law. 

"A lot of people here are sick at the hospital so you don't really want to be blowing smoke in people's faces when they're not well."

Tonya McMillan works at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital and says it can be difficult for both patients and employees to make it off hospital property to light up. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

Only one designated smoking area is left near the main entrance of the Civic, said Theresa Morrow who works at the hospital.

But changes to the law won't affect her. She already smokes on the sidewalk by Carling Avenue and plans to quit for health reasons the day the new law comes into effect.

Law comes with hefty fine

Ten Ottawa hospitals are affected by the provincial law.

They are:

  • Elisabeth Bruyère
  • Montfort
  • Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
  • Queensway-Carleton
  • Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre
  • St-Vincent 
  • University of Ottawa Heart Institute
  • General, Riverside and Civic campuses of the Ottawa Hospital

According to a City of Ottawa media release, local hospitals have expanded smoking cessation services including nicotine replacement therapy and counselling. Many people are being directed to a local organization that provides counselling across Ottawa and surrounding communities, including Lanark County, Cornwall and Prescott-Russell.

Starting Jan. 1, there will be increased enforcement and anyone caught smoking on hospital grounds can face a $305 fine, according to the release.