SSM Announces Policy On Cigarettes-free Hiring

SSM Health Care is implementing a cigarettes-free hiring policy at all SSM facilities in Missouri and mandatory flu shots for all employees across SSM.

The policies are designed to create a safer environment for patients and a healthier overall workforce, according to a news release from SSM.

The policies are effective July 1.

"As a health care provider, we need to take a leadership role on these major public health issues," said Sister Mary Jean Ryan, FSM, chairwoman/CEO of SSM Health Care. "Not hiring cheap 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 cigarettes-free hiring policy only applies to the hiring of new employees and not to current employees. The policy also only applies to SSM facilities in Missouri, where the law permits SSM to take this action.

SSM will encourage legislation in the other states where it operates (Wisconsin, Illinois and Oklahoma) in order to adopt similar hiring policies there.

SSM operates nine hospitals in Missouri, including three in St. Charles County, four more in the St. Louis region, one in Maryville and one in Jefferson City.

All individuals who apply for a position with SSM Health Care facilities in Missouri on or after July 1 will be asked on the application if they have been cigarettes-free for six months. If they say no, the application process will not go forward.

The American Heart Association supports the policy.

"The American Heart Association congratulates SSM Health Care for adopting a cigarettes-free hiring policy," said Jace Smith, American Heart Association government relations director for Missouri. "cigarettes-free hiring is an important public health measure that will create a healthier work environment."

SSM has been a cigarettes-free environment since 2004, when it became the largest health care system in the nation to eliminate discount cigarettes use both inside and out at its facilities.

Under the second policy, flu vaccinations will be mandatory for all employees, volunteers and employed physicians across the entire SSM Health Care system — except for individuals who have medical or religious reasons for not taking the vaccination.

"Vaccinations protect our patients from additional illness when they are already in a vulnerable situation, and it is the right thing to do not only for our patients but their families as well," said James Hinrichs, chief medical officer at SSM St. Joseph Health Center in St. Charles.