TAMC Awarded Gold Star for Promoting Tobacco-Free Community
Aroostook County – On the eve of the Great American Smokeout, TAMC was recognized by the Maine Tobacco-Free Hospital Network for its excellence in creating a tobacco-free environment for patients, employees, and the community.
The County’s largest and most comprehensive provider of healthcare services received a gold star award, the highest level of recognition given by the Hospital Network.
“As an important health resource for the community, it’s essential for TAMC to set the standard for others to follow,” said Sylvia Getman, TAMC President & CEO. “Tobacco use leads to a variety of serious health issues, and we want to do whatever we can to give people the help they need to quit.”
The award ceremony was held in Augusta on Wednesday, November 19, for all hospitals honored by the Maine Tobacco-Free Hospital Network. TAMC officials were presented the award by Carol Bell of the Aroostook County Action Program’s Healthy Aroostook Project on the day of the Great American Smokeout (November 20). TAMC and ACAP were lead partners in developing the day locally into the Great Aroostook Stompout, during which area residents are encouraged to give up one unhealthy habit to show solidarity with those who quit smoking for the day and to help encourage healthy behaviors.
Twenty-six percent of adults living in Aroostook County smoke, which is significantly higher than the state average of 18 percent. Aroostook County also has high incidence rates of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer, diseases that can be caused or made worse by smoking.
TAMC was awarded gold-level recognition at the annual Gold Star Standards of Excellence program, during an event at the Maine Hospital Association on November 19. The presentation was made locally at the end of a press conference at the Aroostook Centre Mall to announce a new smoking cessation program launched by TAMC and ACAP’s Healthy Aroostook on Thursday, November 20.
The honor was presented to TAMC because it met all 10 criteria required by the Tobacco-Free Hospital Network. Specific criteria include having written policies to alert patients, visitors, and staff that TAMC is 100% tobacco-free, making information and treatment options available to those who want to quit, and forbidding tobacco advertising in waiting room publications.
“We are pleased to have again met the criteria hospitals must meet to receive the gold star,” said Joy Baressi Saucier, TAMC vice president, chief strategy and community benefit officer. “Our efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of County residents are at the center of everything we do each and every day at TAMC. Certainly we want to do all we can to ensure our employees, patients and visitors not only have a smoke-free and tobacco-free environment, but that we do whatever we can to encourage and support those who want to quit.”
TAMC offers a variety of services to employees who want to quit, including free one-on-one sessions and educational material. The medical center also announced on Thursday a new community smoking cessation program, in partnership with ACAP’s Healthy Aroostook program, called Beat-the-Pack.
The healthcare organization actively encourages patients who use tobacco to consider quitting. In partnership with Healthy Aroostook, tobacco cessation information is made available in physician practice waiting rooms and exam rooms. Caregivers are required to ask about patients’ smoking status at every visit. Tobacco users who are in the hospital for an overnight stay receive appropriate smoking cessation information and medication.
“Hospitals should be health and wellness role models for their communities, so it's important for them to set an example around reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Sarah Mayberry, director of the Maine Tobacco‑Free Hospital Network. “The Gold Star Standards of Excellence program is an opportunity to celebrate the hard work at TAMC and the other Maine hospitals to address this issue."
TAMC, which has been tobacco-free for 13 years, is one of 18 Maine hospitals to be recognized with a gold star in 2014.
The Maine Tobacco-Free Hospital Network has recognized hospitals for reducing tobacco use since 2007. The organization was initiated by the Partnership for a Tobacco Free Maine and the American Cancer Society of New England. Other partners include the Breathe Easy Coalition of Maine, Healthy Maine Partnerships, Maine Hospital Association, and MaineHealth.
In addition to TAMC, seven other EMHS hospitals were recognized by the Maine Tobacco-Free Hospital Network. Acadia Hospital in Bangor, CA Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Mercy Hospital in Portland/Westbrook, and Sebasticook Valley Health in Pittsfield were also presented with gold star honors. Blue Hill Memorial Hospital earned the second highest honor with a silver star award.