Hospital smoke fires up critics

The West Australian, Daniel Emerson.

The State’s smoking laws have been branded a joke as hospital patients and visitors light up with impunity at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

South Perth resident Gene said he felt disgusted at having to plough through plumes of smoke at the entrance of the hospital, where his wife is being treated.

He took a series of pictures over several visits to highlight the problem, which he says is rife despite smoking being banned at all WA Heath sites.

“It’s traumatic enough going there without having to go past a bunch of angry people standing around the hospital entrance smoking,” Gene said.

One picture shows smokers ignoring a sign saying “While you’ve still got your health, walk 300m off site for a cigarette”.

Dozens of butts litter the pavements despite the presence of two bins, both of which carry “no smoking” stickers. Another captures a patient in a pink dressing gown smoking.

“I object to the fact that we have reached a point in society where rule breakers seem to get away with it and everyone else has to put up with it,” Gene said.

WA Health is supposed to be smoke-free under a 2013 directive which cites it obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to provide a safe workplace.

A spokeswoman insisted staff asked visitors to extinguish cigarettes in an “educational and non-confrontational manner”. But Gene said his sister, a nurse at SCGH, had told him staff were too afraid to confront smokers.

Last week, Victorian heart surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann died almost a month after being allegedly punched by an assailant he asked to stop smoking outside Box Hill Hospital.

Gene contacted his local MP, and shadow minister Bill Marmion raided the issue in Parliament.

Health Minister Roger Cook said he was “particularly concerned” about Gene’s complaint and flagged increased enforcement.

“We are well and truly overdue for tobacco law reform in this State,” Mr Cook said.

“We were a world leader until fairly recently..”