Craigavon Area Hospital staff who have been dodging the on-site smoking ban by having a puff in a nearby street will soon find their path fully blocked.
The Southern Health and Social Care Trust confirmed that a temporary fence has been erected at the boundary of Lisnisky Lane and that a permanent one will be in place by Christmas.
The move follows complaints by residents angered by butts, cigarette packets and other litter, as well as second-hand smoke.
A complete smoking ban on trust grounds came into force in March and the problem has been ongoing since then, with staff seeking alternative venues to light up.
Councillor Julie Flaherty said the UUP office had received a number of complaints from residents, and that during September litter wardens from ABC Council began patrols and a fixed penalty notice was issued.
The wardens also handed out pocket ashtrays to staff at this location and to others on another pathway at the Seagoe Hotel side of the hospital.
One staff smoker, who did not wish to be named, had driven to Lisnisky Lane last Wednesday for a smoke before his shift began, after the latest section of temporary fencing was erected the day before.
He said, “Normally, there would be around 10 or 15 of us here at morning, afternoon and late afternoon breaks. We only get a 15-minute break and the shortcut to Lisnisky Lane only takes about two minutes, rather than walking down to the roundabout.
“At no stage were we consulted about the ban.
“A lot of staff and even the patients feel there should have been a smoking hut put up.
Staff are hiding behind buildings to have a smoke.”
The 25-year-old admitted that it was a nuisance for Lisnisky residents and acknowledged that there were those who littered, but he said that the trust, when implementing the ban, hadn’t properly considered where people would go.
He added, “Patients are still smoking outside A&E and maternity and staff have been ‘encouraged’ to step in, but we are not paid to ask people to move on, and if it’s outside A&E you don’t know if someone has had bad news or what their situation is.”
A spokesperson for the trust said, “The trust has been approached by local public representatives highlighting the issue of smoking related litter and increased exposure to second hand tobacco smoke on behalf of local residents.
“Many trust sites are located alongside residential areas and we have informed staff of these concerns and emphasised the importance of not contributing to passive smoking alongside domestic properties or littering in public areas.
“The trust has taken further steps to mitigate these concerns by erecting a temporary fence on the Craigavon Area Hospital site at the boundary of Lisnisky Lane. The trust expects that a permanent fence in this location will have been completed by Christmas 2016.”