Haze of smoke too much

Edward and Susan Maher outside the Albury Base entrance where smokers gather despite bans. Pictures: BEN EYLES
Edward and Susan Maher outside the Albury Base entrance where smokers gather despite bans. Pictures: BEN EYLES
The signs at Albury hospital declaring it a no-smoking site.

The signs at Albury hospital declaring it a no-smoking site.

Haze of smoke too much

THE flouting of a ban on smoking outside Albury hospital has forced a sufferer of Parkinson’s disease to abandon his rehabilitation therapy at the site.

Edward Maher says he cannot cope with having to walk through a haze of smoke when he enters the hospital.

“I don’t see why I should continue to suffer at the hands of somebody while I’ve got no choice,” the Henty retiree said.

Albury Wodonga Health chief executive Stuart Spring said there had been a ban on smoking outdoors at the hospital since 2006 but it was too hard to enforce.

“In truth, there’s nothing that the police can do. It’s an area that requires total community co-operation but we do our best to encourage people to not smoke around hospital entries,” Dr Spring said.

He said volatile smokers posed a risk to staff warning them off smoking on the grounds.

“If the smokers are abusive, needless to say we don’t want to put staff at risk,” Dr Spring said.

He estimated 80 per cent of those smoking outside were visitors, with the rest patients.

Mr Maher believes the interests of smokers are being put ahead of patients.

“I understand they’ve got no control over it, it’s another drug issue, but it’s being dealt with that ‘it’s OK,” Mr Maher said.

“Well it’s not OK. I refuse to go to a hospital that allows smoking in the foyer.

“I don’t go there because I want to, I go there because I have to.

“I have no choice in the matter.”

Mr Maher and his wife Susan have complained to politicians, including NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner.

“They don’t allow people to smoke indoors; they would kick them out, so I think they should be able to kick them out of the grounds,” Mrs Maher said.

The Mahers said they would consider taking legal action against the hospital if there was not a legislative resolution.

Member for Albury Greg Aplin said it “sends the wrong signal” to have smokers congregating near hospital entrances, but he believed nicotine-addicted patients needed “humane treatment”.

“There is no excuse for visitors but with patients ... they can’t move off the site. Not that I’m advocating smoking but I see a problem with real life,” he said.