Patient safety must come first!

Copyright 2012

Do more to stem smoking in hospital compound

My letter was first published in The Straits Times Forum Online, 11 March 2013

VERY often, I see inpatients of Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) smoking on the fringes of its compound on Irrawaddy Road, at the covered walkway opposite the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Smoking addiction is a real problem for patients. However, with the latest addition of five new non-smoking areas, including covered linkways and walkways, as well as outdoor areas of hospital compounds ("Smoking ban to cover 5 more areas"; Jan 12), TTSH should ensure that its patients comply with the rules.

Perhaps the Health Promotion Board (HPB) can collaborate with TTSH by providing irresistible incentives for these patients to join the HPB Health Ambassador Network if they do not want to join the hospital's smoking cessation programme.

Very often, such patients find smoking hard to quit. I once advised a smoker to quit the habit, and he challenged me with this: "Can you get the Government to impose a national ban on the sale of tobacco? If I can't get it, I can't smoke it."

Indeed, if only smoking were banned in Singapore, there would be a drastic drop in the number of patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. This would ease the bed crunch in public hospitals, reduce medical costs and cut out second-hand smoke that has also claimed many lives. I have learnt that public hospitals are facing an acute shortage of respiratory doctors.

Besides TTSH inpatients, many other smokers can also be spotted at the Irrawaddy Road covered walkway daily, especially during their rest and meal breaks. I urge the National Environment Agency to beef up patrols in this area.

Lee Soh Hong (Miss)

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