MALONE — Franklin County Nursing Home employees will not be allowed to smoke on facility grounds after Oct. 29 unless state health officials say otherwise.
A new state law that takes effect in less than two weeks bans smoking on the grounds of general hospitals and residential-health-care facilities within 15 feet of the entrance to the facility or its grounds.
The law does not prevent patients, visitors or guests from smoking in designated areas as long as they are not within certain distances of the building or the entrance to the grounds.
However, the nursing home has had its own more-restrictive policy in place since the late 1990s that states residents cannot smoke, but it says nothing about the staff.
County Manager Thomas Leitz sought clarification from the State Department of Health on the new law to see if employees would be part of the new ban, but he was told a final determination has not been made yet.
Nursing Home Administrator Mary Palmer said she expects the state will want to place nursing-home and hospital staffs under the same rules.
Legislators questioned the wording of the new law since it states no smoking on the facility grounds, and they wondered if the ban included the parking lot, in case an employee wanted to smoke in their vehicle or somewhere else on the spacious property the county owns off Finney Boulevard, which is also State Route 30 south.
Legislator Sue Robideau (R-Brushton) raised concerns about employee safety since the ban forces workers off grounds to smoke along a busy highway, especially in winter.
According to 2010 statistics provided by Rob Haynes, engineer at the State Department of Transportation office in Malone, about 3,400 vehicles pass by the nursing home each day.
But Palmer said employees are provided lunch and not allowed to leave the nursing-home grounds during their eight-hour work shifts, which means they wouldn’t be able to go off premises to smoke while on duty.
Another off-premises idea discussed was gaining permission for smokers to use a portion of property at the offices of James McKee, a certified-public accountant, which is next door to the nursing home.
Legislator Marc “Tim” Lashomb said he would ask McKee and report back.
“I’m opposed to smoking. I was a smoker, but people who do have that habit can’t quit cold turkey,” he said. “Smokers do have rights. It’s not illegal to smoke in New York state.
“I don’t approve of it, but I respect their rights.”
Until clarification from the state comes, legislators decided no Nursing Home employees will be allowed to smoke on facility grounds or parking lots after Oct. 29.
The nursing home is slated for closure in late 2014 and will merge with the Alice Hyde Medical Center Nursing Home at a new 135-bed shared skilled-nursing facility with 30 additional assisted-living rooms off Park Street.
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