Monday, July 18, 2011

35% of Nurses Will Not Be Eligible to Work for Auckland Health Board Under New Smoker Discrimination Policy

Under a new smoker discrimination policy being implemented by the Auckland District Health Board, 35% of current nurses will no longer be eligible to work for the Health Board. The policy precludes smokers from being employed as new hires.

According to the article: "A nurses' union is accusing Auckland's District Health Board of discrimination for considering not hiring smokers. The board, which employs more than 10,000 people, has instructed a proposal be drawn up that would see prospective health workers who smoke turned away. ADHB Executive Director of Nursing Taima Campbell, who proposed the original idea, said health workers had a responsibility to be positive role models. ... The Nurses Organisation says 35% of its members smoke, and it will oppose the policy."

A Health Board member defended the decision, arguing that: "We need our staff to be good role models and not smoke themselves."

The nurses union is opposing the policy. More than one in three nurses in Auckland are smokers.

The Rest of the Story

Unlike here in the U.S., nurses in New Zealand are standing up for their employment rights. The nurses union is rightly noting that the proposed policy represents employment discrimination and that it goes against everything they believe about equal opportunity.

In addition, the union made it clear that the policy will result in less qualified nurses being hired, since the smoking rate among nurses is 35%. You can't eliminate one-third of potential employees arbitrarily and expect to end up with the most highly qualified work force. In fact, you will not have the most highly qualified work force. You will be sacrificing nursing quality and ultimately, patient care.

The Health Board seems to believe that nurses must be good role models. So are they also refusing to hire obese or overweight nurses? Are they refusing to hire nurses who don't wear seat belts? Are they taking a careful sexual history of prospective employees to make sure that their nurses set a good example in that regard? Are they inquiring about marital fidelity? Surely, if you are going to be a good role model for others, you wouldn't want to have someone who is cheating on his or her spouse. Are they also inquiring about speeding tickets, failure to pay taxes, history of misdemeanor offenses, and eating habits?

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