By Gina Liggett
Islamic and Sikh Healthcare Workers Scoff at Patient Safety in the name of God
In a recent capitulation to "multiculturalism," the British Department of Health has exempted complaining Muslims and Sikhs from complying with a specific dress code implemented to reduce the spread of so-called "super bugs" in health care settings.
Bluntly, these religious followers are now allowed the capricious indulgence of putting their faith before patient safety!
In 2007, the British National Health Service started requiring all health care personnel providing direct care to patients to be bare from the elbows down, so that following contact with each and every patient, hands and wrists could be thoroughly and properly washed. The scientific (i.e., not religious) basis for this reasonable rule was that the pernicious "super bugs," MRSA and C Diff, were found to cling onto providers' long lab-coat and shirt sleeves, neckties, wristwatches, and wrist jewelry, thus transmitting these often deadly disease-causing microorganisms directly to the next patient.
The Muslim women got exempted because it is an "offense" to their religion to show bare skin, even below the elbows. The Sikhs wanted to keep wearing their wrist bangles as long as they were pushed up their arms during patient contact. But guess what (for those of you who haven't fought the vicissitudes of fashion) those damn things slide back down where they can end up coming in contact with super bugs! Muslim and Sikh health care providers "may" wear disposable protective long sleeves; but to quote Derek Butler, chairman of MRSA Action UK, "My worry is that allowing some medics to use disposable sleeves...compromise(s) patient safety because unless you change the sleeves between each patient, you spread bacteria. Scrubbing bare arms is far more effective."
"Super Bug" Epidemiology 101
Indeed, thanks to the early-scientific inquiry and common-sense of the Mother of modern Nursing and Epidemiology, Miss Florence Nightingale, the gold standard for preventing the spread of disease in health care facilities is the simplest practice of all: thorough handwashing before and after each and every patient contact.
But how about some background information on what these "super bugs" are and why they're such a threat to human health. MRSA, or "methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas" and C Diff, "Clostridium difficile," are bacteria that have evolved to develop resistance to antibiotics as newer generations of antibiotics have become part of the arsenal against infection and as the prescribing of antibiotics has become more widespread (a stunning demonstration of the power of evolution). These bacteria have become very prevalent in hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities in recent years. There are also other "super bugs" evolving to become ever-more-resistant to antibiotics, presenting a grave challenge not only to health professionals trying to control the spread of these awful germs, but to developers of new generations of antibiotics.
These are not benign bugs! MRSA can cause serious infections of the skin and respiratory tract. Severe infections of MRSA can also lead to sepsis, in which bacteria escape into the blood stream leading to an immune response that can cause organ damage and death. Patients die by the tens of thousands in both the U.S. and Britain because of this organism.
C Diff lives in the intestinal tract of many people, including the healthy, but the "good" bacteria in the gut keep it in check. Many hospitalized patients develop C Diff infection after taking antibiotics for some ailment; these antibiotics kill off enough good bacteria, allowing C Diff bacteria to overpopulate and release toxins that cause diarrhea and even severe inflammation of the colon.
These are hearty bugs! MRSA can be present in people without causing symptoms, meaning these people can be carriers. If a patient has MRSA infection or is a carrier, or if someone has the C Diff diarrhea, the germs will be present on their body and surfaces they touch. This is why health care facilities isolate these patients, require health care workers to wear barrier gloves and gowns, and most importantly require them to thoroughly wash their hands after patient contact. In Britain, authorities added the additional requirement of bare arms below the elbows, so sleeves don't get dragged in bacteria that can be transmitted to the next patient and to enable good hand and wrist washing.
Compliance With Infection Control is Enough of a Problem Already
In Britain, there is some evidence that the 2007 infection control practices are having a positive result, but compliance is not uniform.
When health care providers don't properly follow infection control practices, they risk transmitting these bugs to other patients, who may be susceptible because they're in a weakened immune state due to their illness or other health problems. This is exactly how these super bugs have spread and evolved to become such a threat to patients' health and lives.
Multiculturalism-Sensitivity is in Conflict with Patient Safety
Infection control advocates are having a hard-enough time getting personnel and facilities to comply with the guidelines known to work. Just getting health care workers to simply wash their hands has been an ongoing problem since the Crimean War!
Now British health authorities are reversing direction, subordinating science and sound medical practice to religious doctrine, literally threatening the lives and health of patients.
How would you like to be a patient in a British hospital, cared for by a Muslim doctor who insists on protecting her Islamic dignity by wearing long sleeves that have contacted the spores of C Diff residing on the bed rails of Patient Number 43589403298? Do you like watery diarrhea and cramping?!
Would you like your surgical incision to become infected with MRSA from Patient Number 98039817298 whom your Sikh doctor wearing religiously-correct bracelets has just seen? Do you like pus and fever?!
The Western World Must Fight for its Standards
I can best characterize the haughtiness of the British Muslim and Sikh health care workers by using a crude American expression; but let's just say it has to with their holier-than-thou belief that "their own excreta lack the noisome vapors characteristic of everybody else's." Thus, they exempt themselves from rational rules designed to save human lives, arrogantly shoving their religious practices in the faces--and bodies--of patients.
"Dutiful Diarrhea!" "Mercy for MRSA!" Praise Be To God and Allah for worsening the spread of British "super bugs!"