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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (30 July) . . Page.. 3078..

Quit smoking counselling for smokers

MS DUNDAS (5.21): I move:

That this Assembly, recognising that (a) smokers have poorer health and longer hospital stays than non-smokers, and (b) people hospitalised for a smoking-relating illness have a high motivation to quit smoking, calls on the ACT Government to start offering free quit smoking counselling to all smokers admitted to ACT public hospitals by no later then January 2005.

This motion, at its heart, calls for the ACT government to offer free "quit smoking" counselling to all smokers admitted to ACT hospitals and to have this program in place by no later than January 2005. We know many people are admitted to hospital with smoking-related illnesses, and we know that smokers take far longer to recover from major surgery than non-smokers. At a time of serious illness requiring a hospital stay smokers are most likely to be receptive to support and advice to help them to stop smoking. They are already in an environment where smoking is clearly not permitted, yet there is no systemic program to ensure that every smoking inpatient in Canberra's public hospitals gets advice on quitting.

The government is heavily focused on our surgical waiting lists as a main indicator of health outcomes in the ACT, and they are also trying to address clearly expressed community concerns about the length of the waiting lists. However, we also need to be thinking longer term and investing in preventative health programs. The Canberra Hospital's health promotion officer retired in 2001 and has not been replaced-that is a position that has gone unfilled since 2001-and there is no health promotion position at all at Calvary Hospital.

The health promotion officer at TCH visited patients at their bedsides and delivered counselling and printed information on quitting smoking. We need such a dedicated position at each of our public hospitals because our nurses are too heavily burdened to take on that role by themselves. Action in our public hospitals is now quite patchy, and largely relies on nurses fitting smoking cessation counselling into their already extremely busy days. Quite simply, it is not realistic to place this demand solely on the shoulders of nurses. Of course this is not to say that nurses cannot contribute; it is simply an acknowledgment that not enough can be done by existing staff. Just one extra position in each of our public hospitals could make a real difference to the health outcomes of the entire community.

I have specifically included the word "counselling" in my motion because research has shown that counselling is an essential element of successful smoking cessation programs. Simply handing a smoker some printed information is not nearly as successful. I would not like to see this motion cut back so a cheaper and less successful approach is adopted. This, while it would be penny-wise, would obviously be pound-foolish policy making. The Cancer Council has been given a few opportunities to present information to nurses at TCH in the past. ACT Health also recently commenced limited delivery of a "train the trainer" program for nurse administrators in the cardio-thoracic rehabilitation ward at TCH, ward 6A-respiratory-and the Canberra midwifery program.

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