War on smokers escalates 

After Oct. 1, White County Medical Center in Searcy will no longer hire new employees who smoke, becoming one of the first hospitals in Arkansas to adopt such a policy. Smokers already on the payroll will not be affected, and can continue to smoke when they're away from the hospital. Smoking at hospitals was banned by the legislature several years ago.

Ray Montgomery, president and CEO of the Medical Center, said the new policy was part of a larger health initiative at Searcy's only hospital. Like every other employer, the hospital has seen its employee health costs increase sharply. "We're trying to create as healthy an environment as we can," Montgomery said. "We're encouraging, but not requiring, our staff to exercise and use the stairs. We're making improvements in the cafeteria so we can serve healthier food. Nonsmoking employees pay less for health insurance than smokers. We offer stop-smoking classes." The hospital's legal counsel advised that it could also refuse to hire smokers.

Healthier hospital employees should mean lower coasts for hospital patients, Montgomery said. He said that health-care premiums for the hospital's employees cost about $7 million a year. The employees pay 20 percent of that. The hospital pays the rest. The hospital gets its money from patients.

Montgomery said the hospital's legal counsel had advised that the hospital could stop hiring smokers. The new policy has produced "some negativity on the part of smokers," Montgomery said. "But most nonsmokers have been encouraging. They think we should be a role model for healthy living."

Arkansas is one of the smokingest states in the Union, Montgomery said. The percentage of the population that smokes is 19.4. Only seven states smoke more. The state that smokes the most is Kentucky, a big tobacco-producing state, with 22 percent smokers. At White County Medical Center, 21.5 percent of employees and spouses smoke. "We're even higher than the state, and close to Kentucky," Montgomery said. That should change as smokers leave the payroll because of attrition and non-smokers replace them.


From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of White County Medical Center, Ray Montgomery


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in The Insider

  • All in the family

    Old habits die hard. We may have a new Republican majority in the legislature, but like the old Democratic majority, it still doesn't hurt to have a lawmaker spouse to land a part-time job during the legislative session.
    • Jan 30, 2013
  • 'Circuit breaker' legal

    When we first asked Gov. Mike Beebe about the "circuit breaker" idea out of Arizona (automatically opting out of Medicaid expansion if the feds reduce the matching rates in the future), he said it was fine but noted that states can already opt out at any time, an assurance he got in writing from the feds.
    • Jan 30, 2013
  • Church goes to school in Conway

    An interesting controversy is brewing in Conway Public Schools, periodically a scene of discord as more liberal constituents object to the heavy dose of religion that powerful local churches have tried to inject into the schools, particularly in sex education short on science and long on abstinence.
    • Jan 23, 2013
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments


© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation