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How much bacteria are on your Pennsylvania doctor's lab coat?

For hospitals and patients, infections are a very real concern after a surgery has been completed. A post-operative infection can lead to very serious complications that could even prove to be fatal for the patient. This is why there are very strict rules for hygiene both in the operating room and out.

If you have ever been in the recovery ward of a hospital, you may have noticed a hand washing station just outside of a patient room with a big sign that says “Everyone who enters this room must wash their hands” or something to that effect. Hand washing is important, but what about the clothes that we wear into the room? How much bacteria do they carry?

Think of it this way. If you are a man, how many times have you washed your ties? If you are a woman, do you take your jewelry off every time you wash your hands? Did you know that 70 percent of physicians admitted that they never wash their ties? Did you know that around one third of these physician’s ties carry the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on them?

Another item that doesn’t get the dry-cleaning attention it should is lab coats. Although scrubs and dress clothes are washed on a regular basis, lab coats can go 12 days before ever getting a good cleaning. Studies have found that the cuffs on these coats easily pick up and hold bacteria.

Other bacteria-laden items that don’t often get sterilized include jewelry, lanyards, identification tags, cellphones and pagers. When these items come into contact with a patient, they have the potential to transfer the bacteria onto the patient or into an open wound.

These facts were reported in association with suggested guidelines that were published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. An infectious disease specialist on the committee that made the recommendations said that although no study has yet to be conducted establishing a “definitive link” between one of these items and a specific hospital-acquired infection, he said “there’s reason to suspect it could happen.”

What if it did? Could a hospital be found negligent for failing to enact guidelines for keeping clothing clean? Could a doctor be held liable for medical malpractice? These are questions that a Pennsylvania personal injury attorney will explore even when the answers don't seem obvious.

Source: USA TODAY, “Germy lab coats and ties prompt dress code for doctors,” Kim Painter, Jan. 21, 2014

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