Are doctors' white coats a health risk? A recent report by Dr Edmond Fernandes in the BMJ puts forward that Indian doctors should give up the use of white coats as the long sleeved coats spread infection.
Explaining about the dangers of the white coat, Dr Fernandes told TOI Health, "The biggest worry of the white coat is the spread of hospital acquired infection, which in turn leads to drug resistance. Hospital administrators, without appropriate research and review enforce white coats on medical students, residents which is wrong and more authoritarian by its very nature. I think those who do not wish to wear the white coat should not be forced to, and patient care should be put before ego and symbolism."
Dr Fernandes also mentioned in the report that changing areas in Indian hospitals are rare so white coats are commonly worn by students coming from college and outside the hospital. In many cities in India, some junior doctors wear white coats in shopping malls and cinemas. And then they enter sterilized zones in the hospital in the same coat.
While some of the city doctors maintained that the long-sleeved coats don't cause any threat if hand hygiene is followed, Dr Fernandes rejects the claim.
He repeats, "Studies have proven that sides of the long sleeve coat contain infections, and therefore UK made a landmark decision to ban the white coat in 2007. In India, we need to bring it to the notice of the health ministers in order to combat the problem. Hospital acquired infection is like a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode."
Dr Fernandes recommends that while hand washing, short sleeved coats can help reduce the infection. The ultimate solution is discarding the white coat and using a name badge in its place.