Patients hide in bushes to evade smoking ban

Patients dressed in pyjamas at a smoke-free hospital campus are hiding behind trees and bushes to smoke, chairman of the HSE West Forum has said.

Cllr Padraig Conneely yesterday called for the HSE to relax its smoke-free campus designation for the 150-acre site at Merlin Park Hospital in Galway.

“I have seen patients in their pyjamas and slippers hide behind bushes and trees smoking because of the HSE putting in place a ban on smoking across the campus.

“This is unacceptable that patients have to do this when you have a 150-acre campus,” Mr Conneely told a meeting of the forum.

Patients can smoke if they cross a blue line at the hospital exit, but in order to get there, many have to walk around 1km from their bed due to the size of the campus.

“Common sense has to prevail and there should be a designated area for smokers. Exceptions should be made for patients at Merlin Park,” said Mr Conneely.

The policy came under fire from a number of forum members, with Cllr Tomas Mannion describing the smoke-free zone policy at the 289-bed hospital as “political correctness gone absolutely bonkers”.

He described the policy as “absolutely ludicrous” and said the HSE was acting in a “heavy-handed manner” in dealing with the issue.

Cllr Pat Burke said: “There is a crazy amount of ground here and patients having to walk to the gate is absolutely ludicrous.”

Director of operations for HSE West John Hennessy said exceptions are made for patients being cared for at HSE long-stay facilities who wish to smoke.

Of the 289 beds at Merlin Park, 79 are long-stay geriatric beds.

However, Mr Hennessy said there would continue to be “an unapologetic implementation of the smoking ban in relation to visitors and short-stay patients”.

Mr Conneely said: “It seems that the blue line is going to hold for now, but common sense has to prevail.”


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