February 28, 2011 - If you smoke, chew, sniff, snort or dip tobacco products, cross one big South Sound business off your list of potential employers. Tacoma’s Franciscan Health System is adding a qualification for prospective employees beginning today, March 1, 2011: They must be tobacco-free.
Franciscan, which employs 8,100 workers in Pierce, King and Kitsap counties, owns Tacoma’s St. Joseph, Federal Way’s St. Francis, Gig Harbor’s St. Anthony, Lakewood’s St. Clare and Enumclaw’s St. Elizabeth hospitals and five dozen clinics and other health care and office facilities.
The medical care provider’s motives are several, Franciscan said. The health conglomerate wants to encourage healthful living, to set a good example in the communities it serves, to improve employees’ health and to save money. “Our mission calls us to create healthier communities,” said Franciscan Chief Operating Officer Dr. Cliff Robertson. “We cannot in good conscience simultaneously be a champion for healthy communities and continue to hire people who smoke and use tobacco products.”
Franciscan spokesman Gale Robinette said the company will add a tobacco-detecting urine test to its post-job-offer drug test beginning March 1. That test can detect tobacco use from cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snus and snuff and even from nicotine patches and heavy second-hand smoke. If tobacco is detected in the prospective employee’s system – no matter whether that tobacco comes from living with smokers or using a nicotine patch – the person won’t be hired, said the health system. The person will be invited to reapply in six months, said the health system spokesman.
Franciscan has banned tobacco use in its facilities since 2006. The health care organization offers help for employees seeking to stop smoking, with managing their withdrawal symptoms, coping with cravings and dealing with relapses.
Besides the good health of employees, the health care system benefits from lower costs. “Not only are cigarettes bad for your health, they drive up costs for employers like Franciscan,” said Dave Lawson, Franciscan’s vice president of human resources. “A typical employee that smokes costs his or her employer an additional $4,000 a year or more in increased medical costs and lost productivity.”
Reference: Franciscan: Health system will no longer hire tobacco users If you smoke, chew, sniff, snort or dip tobacco products, cross one big South Sound business off your list of potential employers., JOHN GILLIE - Staff Writer, The Tacoma News Tribune, 2/12/2011.
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