York-based WellSpan Health, the region’s largest health care system, is joining several of its peers with a new policy of not hiring new employees who use tobacco or nicotine products.
WellSpan’s policy will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015, but applicants who accepted an active offer of employment from WellSpan Health prior to Aug. 1, 2014, will be exempted.
Other health systems throughout eastern and central Pennsylvania with tobacco-free hiring policies include Lancaster General Health, Geisinger Health System, Susquehanna Health, University of Pennsylvania Health System and St. Luke’s University Health Network, according to a news release.
The new policy is part of WellSpan’s continuing efforts to foster lifelong wellness and healthy communities, according to Robert Batory, the nonprofit’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer.
“From 1991, when our hospitals banned smoking indoors, to 2006 when we made all of our campuses tobacco-free, and now moving to tobacco-free hiring, WellSpan has continued to build on its commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles and a healthy workplace,” Batory said in the release.
Batory noted that this is not a new policy for WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, which became part of WellSpan Health in October 2013. WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital has had a tobacco-free hiring policy in place since July 2011.
“As WellSpan and Ephrata Community Hospital continue their integration efforts, the WellSpan Health Board of Directors viewed this as an opportunity to examine Ephrata’s tobacco-free hiring policy and extend the benefits of that policy to patients, employees and visitors throughout the rest of our health system,” Batory said.
Under the new policy, all applicants offered positions with WellSpan will be tested for tobacco and nicotine use as part of their post-offer, pre-placement health screening. Those who test positive for tobacco and nicotine use will not be hired. If an applicant tests positive, he or she may reapply for a position after 12 months, provided the individual has ceased using tobacco or nicotine products.
If an individual tests positive for nicotine because of authorized tobacco cessation efforts, such as nicotine gum or a nicotine patch, it will not affect that applicant’s offer of employment, Batory said. This is in keeping with WellSpan’s tobacco cessation programs and counselors, which are aimed at helping individuals lead tobacco-free lives.
The release says tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States and that a 2012 community health needs assessment showed that more than 1 in 5 adults in York and Adams counties identified themselves as regular smokers, while 13 percent of adults in Lancaster County are regular smokers.
That statistic does not include minors who use tobacco nor adults who use smokeless or other forms of tobacco.
WellSpan has a multispecialty medical group of more than 730 providers, a home care organization, four hospitals, more than 11,000 employees and more than 130 patient care locations.