Coles hospital plans to quit hiring nicotine users
MATTOON — Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center says it won't hire smokers or other nicotine users, starting next month.
Anyone applying for a job at the Coles County hospital starting July 1 will be asked to submit to nicotine screening as part of the post-job offer hiring physical, Sarah Bush Lincoln officials said.
Sarah Bush Lincoln started discussing the change in its hiring policy this past winter, said hospital spokeswoman Patty Peterson.
"If we want to be proponents of health and the leader of healthy communities, it has to start internally," she said.
Carle Foundation Hospital, Presence Covenant Medical Center and Presence United Samaritans Medical Center still hire smokers and aren't considering changing that policy, spokeswomen at all three hospitals said Friday.
There is, however, a financial disincentive to be a tobacco user working for Carle — smoking Carle employees pay more for their health insurance.
Regardless of their hiring practices, all four hospitals ban smoking on their campuses.
Current employees aren't affected by Sarah Bush Lincoln's new hiring policy, but those who use tobacco have been encouraged to quit and otherwise improve their health with access to smoking cessation classes, reduced-price quit-smoking patches and an annual bonus for meeting health goals, Peterson said.
The nicotine screening for new hires is a urine test, and it will screen for smoking, smokeless tobacco, vapor cigarettes and nicotine patches.
Carle spokeswoman Kelli Anderson said Carle also supports employees who want to quit using tobacco with cessation programs, coaching and free prescription medications.
Crystal Senesac said the two Presence hospitals formerly offered reductions in health premiums for employees who met wellness goals, but that ended with the merger between the hospital's former owner, Provena Health, with Resurrection Health Care, and is under further evaluation.