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Sewickley hospital plans to address cigarette smoking near homes

| Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Heritage Sewickley Valley hospital again will address concerns that some employees smoking outside the facility are dropping cigarette butts and filling the air with cigarette smoke near homes.

“We have met with security about the issue and we are going to re-engage our efforts on that to ensure that our security is addressing those concerns,” hospital spokeswoman Suzanne Sakson said on Monday.

Residents addressed the issue several years ago — it came up before council in 2011 — and Heather Wildman Figley of Broad Street says the problem did get better when the hospital addressed it at the time.

But lately, she said, it's getting worse again, with employees smoking by her home across from the hospital, causing smoke to waft into her home.

She said residents have not approached people smoking because they are “already in a high-stress situation” working in a hospital, but that she's hopeful security personnel can fix the problem.

“I'm tired of this, it's been years,” Wildman Figley said.

Heritage Sewickley Valley is smoke-free, so employees, and perhaps guests, gravitate to public streets and sidewalks to smoke.

Wildman Figley said she's found cigarette butts near her home, and an empty cigarette package. She added that “No Smoking” signs she posted in her yard were vandalized, though she is unsure who is responsible.

Sakson noted that although people do have to leave the hospital campus to smoke, officials want to ensure that smokers are not wafting smoke by neighbors' homes.

“There's been no change in policy, but are going to spend more more attention to it,” she said Monday.

Hospital security used to direct people who wished to smoke to areas away from the residents' homes, but Wildman Figley said that does not seem to happen as often.

Groups of three or four people might smoke at a time, she said.

Sewickley Borough Manager Kevin Flannery said the issue has not come before council recently, and if it did there's no much they could do through local laws.

“I do know that the hospital administration did address that issue,” Flannery said. “If there's a problem they try to address it directly.”

Hospital policy notes that people “are expected not to loiter or cross the street near any neighborhood homes and therefore we ask you to walk while smoking.”

A similar issue came up at UPMC St. Margaret near Aspinwall after UPMC facilities went smoke-free in 2007. Neighbors complained that there was a haze of smoke by their homes. In 2013, UPMC implemented a rule prohibiting employees to smoke anywhere during their workday.

Kimberly Palmiero is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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