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Wednesday, April 20,2011

Sparrow to stop hiring smokers?

An announcement on its website said so Monday, but it’s been taken down with no explanation

by Andy Balaskovitz

On Monday, Sparrow Hospital’s website featured a prominent announcement that smokers would no longer be hired.


On Tuesday, the announcement disappeared.


A spokesman could not explain it.


The announcement read: “Effective May 1,
2011, Sparrow Health System has a nicotine-free hiring policy. As part
of a pre-employment drug screen and physical test, all new Caregivers
will be tested for nicotine.”


It also said: “Individuals whose
pre-employment physical results are verified positive for
tobacco/nicotine use will be disqualified from employment, their job
offer will be rescinded, and they will be disqualified from applying for
employment for ninety (90) days from the date of the health screening …
.


“Sparrow promotes a health (sic) and safe environment for all Caregivers, Physicians, Volunteers, Patients and Visitors.”


The announcement was posted on the
“Career Opportunities” section of Sparrow’s website as of late Monday
afternoon. But 24 hours later, it had disappeared with no explanation.


When the announcement was pointed out on
Monday to a hospital spokesman, John Foren, he said he had been unaware
of it. On Tuesday, he said he didn’t know any more about it, including
why it was taken down.


In an interview in February for a story
on hospitals that were banning smokers, Foren said, “I’m not aware we’re
doing anything like that.” Foren said he had spoken to Sparrow’s human
resources department about it.


Foren said while Sparrow has a smoke-free
campus — meaning you can’t smoke on company property — the focus is on
“wellness efforts” and smoking cessation programs for employees.


The debate over whether employers should
hire smokers is not new. In 2005, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who was
then a state senator, sponsored a bill that would have prohibited such a
practice after a health benefits provider in Okemos instituted a
no-smoker policy. But that bill died in committee. More recently, the
debate has shifted to hospitals.


Last month, City Pulse surveyed six
hospitals and health care centers from Howell to Charlotte on their
smoking policies. None of them had no-smoker hiring policies, including
Sparrow. The New York Times reported in February that hospitals in at
least eight states stopped hiring smokers last year.

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