• St. Francis To Stop Hiring Smokers
  • St. Francis Hospital & Health Services in Maryville is implementing a personnel policy that will require all new hires to declare that they are non-smokers.

    A second policy declares that all employees must receive flu vaccinations except for those who decline on health-related or religious grounds.

    The new rules, which go into effect July 1, have also been put in place system-wide by St. Francis' corporate parent, SSM Healthcare.

    "As a health-care provider, we need to take a leadership role on these major public health issues,” said Sr. Mary Jean Ryan, SSM's chief executive officer. "Not hiring cigarettes users is a first step toward creating a healthier workforce, and mandatory flu vaccinations will help protect our patients, our colleagues and their families."

    The tobacco-free policy applies only to the hiring of new employees and will not affect smokers already working at St. Francis, which already maintains a tobacco-free campus.

    Under the rule, all individuals who apply for a job at the hospital on or after July 1 will be asked on their application if they have been tobacco free for six months. If they say no, they will not be considered for employment.

    SSM's stand against hiring smokers has been endorsed by the American Heart Association.

    "The association congratulates SSM Health Care for adopting a tobacco-free hiring policy," said AHA Missouri's Jace Smith. "Tobacco-free hiring is an important public health measure that will create a healthier work environment."

    St. Francis banned cigarettes and other forms of smoking cigarettes and tobacco use on site in 2004, when SSM became the largest health-care system in the nation to eliminate tobacco on its campuses.

    As for flu vaccinations, compliance is mandatory for all employees, volunteers and staff physicians except for individuals who decline taking vaccine on specific medical or religious grounds.

    "Oftentimes our patients are in a vulnerable health situation when they seek care at St. Francis," said Dr. Scott Holman, St. Francis' vice president of medical affairs. "Vaccinations protect them from additional illness. It is the right thing to do."

    In 2009, St. Francis adopted an influenza education and vaccination policy under which all employees who declined to get a flu shot were asked to sign a statement saying they understood the risk to themselves, their patients and their families.

    That year, 74.5 percent of St. Francis employees received flu vaccinations. In 2010, the ratio grew slightly to 75 percent.

    "A healthier workforce sets a good example for patients and translates to a better overall workplace," Ryan said of the flu shot requirement.

    SSM Healthcare, which owns or manages 16 hospitals in four states, is a non-profit health-care system with 5,400 physicians and 22,000 employees.

    Established in the 1890s as a Catholic healing ministry, St. Francis became part of SSM in 1987, when the Sisters of St. Francis joined with the Sisters of St. Mary's in St. Louis to form a new congregation.