The Ministry of Health and Prevention requires all health professionals and medical students in the country to refrain from wearing their lab coats outside hospitals and universities to avoid the spread of pathogenic microbes inside and outside their facilities, and that is in line with the directives of the World Health Organization and the international organizations related with the prevention of infectious diseases. The circular urged the directors of the medical districts, directors of governmental and private medical establishments as well as the deans of medical colleges to take appropriate measures to ensure strict compliance with this requirement to avoid spread of infectious diseases in the community.
H.E. Dr. Amin Hussein Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry’s Public Health Policy and Licensing, revealed that the government’s health inspection teams have recorded repeated violations from both health practitioners and medical students, with some seen wearing their white coats while inside the mosques and markets and attending meetings, conferences, and seminars. His Excellency referred to a research by the International Journal of Bacteriology: “Clinical white coats have very long history of being a symbol of hope and healing for medical professionals; however there has been a concern that white coats may play a big role in transmitting infections within and outside health facility settings. Wearing white coats by medical professional is an accepted practice, but to wear it outside the medical facility is by all means unacceptable”.
Violations occur despite issuance of numerous circulars
This was not the first time that the Ministry issued a circular warning health professionals and medical students against wearing their lab coats outside the health facilities and medical schools. According to H.E. Dr. Al Amiri, Circulars No. (299) for the year 2012, Circular No. (244) for the year 2014, and Circular No (174) for the year 2015 urged doctors and students to stop the practice to protect public health and prevent the spread of diseases in health facilities, schools, and communities. It is also very common to see health care professionals hanging their white coats in their cars and offices or carrying them around outside hospital areas which increases chances for trafficking both pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria. Some of those bacterial strains might be resistant strains such as Methicillin Resistance Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which might spread from hospital to the community and vice versa, and will be very difficult to treat. The Ministry, H.E. said, is considering issuing a guide to stop the practice.
Ministry aims to build a healthy and happy society
H.E. Dr. Al Amiri said the move is aligned with the Ministry’s strategy aiming at ensuring the delivery of comprehensive and integrated healthcare services in innovative and sustainable and regulating and supervising the local health sector and building an integrated health legislative system. He emphasized that the Ministry makes sure that all public and private health centers and medical universities adhere to the country’s public safety policy for community protection.
“Once again, we reiterate the need to adhere to the rule of wearing medical uniform in relevant workplaces only and never use it outside the workplace or place of study to avoid the transmission of diseases and maintain public health,” H.E. said.
Lab coat a mobile source of germ transmission
Many international studies have shown that medical uniforms can be a source of germ transmission known as “Lab coat transmissible diseases”.
In the WHO tuberculosis report issued in 2013 it was stated that airborne infections may be transmitted through gowns and other personal protective equipment if caution is not achieved, and this will present a great risk to the community.
In a study among 100 medical doctors in a hospital in United States of America in 2016, it was revealed that 44% of the coats revealed organisms in the sleeves and pockets. And furthermore, analysis of the organisms revealed that staphylococcus aureus ranked the first to contaminate the coats followed by pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Also in the 2015 report of World Health Population: Microbiological analysis of swabs taken from the cuffs and pocket of physicians' white coats in an acute care hospital showed that 39.1% of the coats had bacterial contamination. Specifically diphtheroids, Staphylococcus aureus and Gram-negative bacilli were isolated. In particular, white-coat cuffs had a higher bacterial load than the mouths of the pockets. The bacterial isolates were resistant to many of the antibiotics tested; Results suggest that physicians' white coats may increase nosocomial infection transmission. Proper handling of white coats by physicians and other healthcare workers could minimize cross-contamination and improve patient safety by potentially reducing nosocomial infections.
This has prompted many countries to prohibit medical professionals and students from wearing their uniforms outside the workplace and campuses according to the globally accepted rules put in place to stop the spread of diseases and control the transmission of infectious bacteria (Standard Universal Precaution for infection control).