Guess What Your Doctor Has Up His Sleeve?

How about MRSA!

The height of professionalism or a hotbed for disease-causing bacteria?

So says Britain’s National Health Service who have therefore banned the traditional long-sleeved white lab coat that we are so used to seeing doctors wearing.

They instituted the ban in an effort to stamp out deadly infections plaguing British healthcare, especially those caused by bugs such as MRSA.

The traditional lab coat has been replaced by a short-sleeved blue tunic with pockets made of a quick-drying antimicrobial fabric, which actively repels bacteria.

But here’s the catch: the ban took place 6 years ago, back in 2008.

And it goes further than just the long-sleeved lab coat. Under a “bare below the elbow” dress-code, every doctor, nurse and therapist will also be banned from wearing watches, jewelry such as rings and bracelets, and neckties.

So has the policy had any effect? According to this report the infection control measures of 2007 have so far been successful. Instances of MRSA cited on death certificates has fallen by 77 per cent:

In 2007 – a total of 1,593 cases of MRSA were recorded on death certificates.

By 2011 – only 364 cases of MRSA were recorded on death certificates.

The American Medical Association proposed a similar ban at their  2009 annual meeting. However, the recommendation was voted down on the basis that “the matter needed further study.”

Canada, however, hasn’t taken it  that far. In speaking with a high-ranking infection control specialist about the importance of hospital worker hand hygiene, she mentioned to me that she heard “something about” Britain’s NHS banning the use of the lab-coat  because the sleeves too easily pick up bacteria and spread them to patients. She did imply, however, that it’s something for Canadian infection control people to look into.

Apparently the young "Dr. Ben Casey" had it about right (as opposed to his mentor) - some 50 years ago.

And with good reason. In Canada, there are more than 200,000 hospital-acquired infections annually, and as many as 8,000 deaths as a result, according to a 2013 report by our Chief Public Health Officer.

One more thing. On Tuesday we wrote about the need for doctors to wash their stethoscopes after every patient contact because research shows that stethoscopes carry more MRSA and other bacteria than all other areas of the physician’s hand except the fingertips.

So let’s put ourselves in the position of a hospital patient. Early in the morning your doctor and perhaps a few colleagues come into your room, As glad as you are to see them you can’t help but notice that they’re wearing long-sleeved lab coats, ties, watches, and carry their own stethoscopes. Your doctor offers you a friendly hello and asks  how you’re doing today.

Given everything you now know, will you say anything about what you see, or will you just let it go and simply answer her question?

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