Sending Smoke Signals

One of the first things I did on Monday morning this week was go and talk to the concierges who are stationed at the main entrance of Middlemore Hospital. As well as welcome and assist visitors, these staff members also help monitor and enforce our smokefree policy and it was because of this that I called in to say hello.

Last week a smokefree campaign was launched to remind patients, visitors and staff that all of our sites are smokefree, including the grounds of Middlemore. I spoke to the concierges to learn more about what they do and acknowledge their contribution to the enforcement of our smokefree policy.

Speaking to the concierges

It’s no secret that smoking is very bad for you but as an ex-smoker myself (and yes, I should have known better) I know how hard it is to give up. On the flip side, if somebody as weak-minded as me can do so, then giving up is possible! I asked the concierges about the experience of challenging people who smoke on our grounds and what message is most effective in changing people’s smoking behaviour.

People who smoke, especially those who have done so for a long time, are aware that smoking is bad for them but have become “immune” to the message. What people instead respond to are messages about the impact smoking has on others. As cited by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), it is estimated that 50 babies die tragically every year in New Zealand from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome caused by second-hand smoke exposure. Certainly a statistic that makes me stop and think after my child health blog a couple of weeks ago.

One of the lasting thoughts I took away from the discussion with the concierges has been to think about the challenge of change. How do we support each other to make change happen? How do we change our approach to problems in order to arrive at a different solution? If simply delivering the message were all that were needed, then no one would smoke anymore, be overweight or drink too much.

As Einstein once commented, the quickest route to insanity is continuing to do the same thing but expecting a different outcome.

So in order to achieve our objectives, we have to often change our focus. If we want to seek a different solution, we have to be prepared to challenge ourselves about how we approach the problem. You can’t blame people into success.

In the case of smoking, this means not always demonising the individual but finding out what would influence them the most. Or in the case of medical errors, as Dr Mary Seddon and I recently blogged about, it means using a Just Culture framework to analyse the system rather than pointing the finger at the staff involved. I include myself, as CEO, among those who could sometimes apply a different focus to problems in order to solve them. Whether or not it’s our approach to medical errors or our approach to helping people stop smoking, sometimes the most powerful lesson is to stop a minute, think about our behaviours and reflect on how we can support others into success.

This week I’ve had the great pleasure of thanking both people and organisations for their continued commitment to us at CMDHB. It’s hugely important to me to acknowledge the enormous generosity of our partner organisations which makes it possible for us to offer many opportunities to our staff and community, such as scholarships and state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. The Lion Foundation has donated over $1 million to develop our clinical skills training facility which opened this week. Money raised through South Auckland Health Foundation has gone to Kidz First and countless other projects. And the Tindall Foundation has supported our Grow Our Own Workforce initiative over several years.

These few examples reflect the generosity of people in the South Auckland community and I’m really grateful for all of the continued support we receive.

Speaking of Grow Our Own Workforce, have a look at this clip which featured on ONE News on Saturday night. It’s a great example of us working with a partner organisation, in this case the Tindall Foundation, to provide our community with opportunities and turn lives around. Again – supporting each other to make change happen.

Finally I’d like to pass on some comments from members of our board which were discussed at a recent meeting. They’d received great feedback from our community, including the comment that the service received in the public sector was the very best. The feedback was all overwhelmingly positive and, yet again, deserves acknowledgement and sincere thanks to you all for your continued great work.



Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

2 thoughts on “Sending Smoke Signals”

  1. Are some people able to ‘share this’ or ‘like this’ on twitter and facebook?
    Are these websites not contrary to organisation policy?
    Cottage Crisis Team

    1. Hi Liz,
      As part of the WordPress package, there are links to Facebook and Twitter from this blog, and anyone can share the address as it is now available publicly. One of the advantages of making the blog public is that staff can read it at any time, not just when they are at work.
      Some of our services, such as Ko Awatea, also have Facebook pages. The reason you can’t access sites like Facebook from work is because it would use too much of the organisation’s bandwidth.
      Thanks – Geraint

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