AMA fuming

THE Australian Medical Association says it’s “bitterly disappointed” WA’s health department has let smoking outside Royal Perth and Sir Charles Gairdner hospitals get out of control.

Each day dozens of smokers haunt the public areas just outside the main entrances, putting the health of other patients and staff at risk.

“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 Voice.

“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.

• A no-smoking sign with the added caution that oxygen’s pretty vital around a hospital emergency, isn’t enough to deter this chap from having a puff just metres away. Photo by Steve Grant

Severe asthma

It’s no better at the department’s new flagship hospital in the southern suburbs, Fiona Stanley.

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,” says Mr Clark, who was back there recently with a broken finger.

He says smoking at a bus stop near the entrance 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.

Cleaners at the hospital 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.

The health department’s media coordinator Elise Holder sent through a statement saying no-smoking signage had been bumped up around campus while patients were offered nicotine replacement therapy.

“Cigarette butt disposal bins have also been installed … 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 a hospital’s help desk.

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

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