The next revolution in local health care isn't happening in the hospital — it's outside.
Within several months, officials at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System are expected to move ahead with a plan to ban smoking from the entire medical campus, a radius of several city blocks, over a year or two.
"It's going to be a gradual process," says Dr. Kevin R. Cooper, a professor of medicine and a pulmonary physician in the VCU Health System.
Cooper, who sits on the committee guiding the plan, says the medical center's administration must work with city officials to determine the health system's jurisdiction over sidewalks and what defines the campus' perimeter. As well, the panel is hashing out how exactly the policy will be enforced. "For employees [who smoke], we're going to have to offer smoking-cessation programs and plenty of notice so that they know what the rules are," he says.
The concept of a smoke-free campus isn't new to Richmond. The HCA Healthcare system made that change in November at its CJW Johnston-Willis and CJW Chippenham campuses, says J.C. Sadler, the health system's marketing director.
Karen Nelson, also of HCA, says a similar policy is likely in the future at Henrico Doctors Hospital. "We feel confident that that's the transition we should make at other locations," she says.
Cooper says a smoke-free policy at VCU would simply be an extension of the physicians' oath created by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. "One of his aphorisms, of course, was, ‘Above all, do no harm,' " he says.