New York Legislation Aims to Create Hygienic Dress Code for Healthcare Practitioners

May 25, 2011

Doctor Wearing Tie and White Coat; Should these be banned?

The New York Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) has introduced state legislation aiming to establish a “hygienic dress code” for medical professionals practicing in New York.  By introducing the legislation, the IDC is urging a prohibition on healthcare workers and doctors wearing neck ties, jewelry and other items that could be carriers of infection causing bacteria.

New York State Assembly Bill No. A7845 (2011) would establish the “health care practitioner hygienic dress code” within the New York Department of Health.

As stated in the legislation, the purpose of the bill is to “help reduce the rate of patient injury due to the inadvertent spread of infections, bacteria, and diseases by health care practitioners due to the clothes and other items that they wear.” Further, the bill purports to “reduce the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance faced by health care practitioners due to the increased damages from injuries caused by such infections.”

A 25 member advisory council would be established under the authority of the legislation if passed. The council would be made up of experts appointed by the Commissioner of Health and would be responsible for developing the codes.  The council would be required to consider the adoption of administrative rules pertaining to a “below the elbow policy” and a “no necktie policy.” In addition, the council would consider patient and practitioner education, provision of clean scrubs and uniforms for health care workers, and a prohibition on wearing clothing worn during patient treatment outside the healthcare facility.

According to a post on the website for Jeffrey D. Klein, New York State Senator, “New York currently has the highest medical malpractice insurance costs in the nation.” “This effort will help save lives, cut down on the number of lawsuits filed against doctors and hospitals, lower insurance costs for care, and — ultimately — lower medical malpractice insurance costs.”

Conversely, data from a study presented in the April 2011 issue of Journal of Hospital Medicine did not support discarding long-sleeved white coats for those with short sleeves changed on a daily basis.

For additional commentary about the bill, see the following:

Independent Democratic Conference. Deadly Ties and the Rise of Multi-Drug Resistant Infections: A Case for a New Health Care Practitioner Hygienic Dress Code. May 2011.

N.Y. Senators to Doctors: Lose Germ-Infested Neckties. Consumer Reports.org. May 3, 2011.

Klein, J.D. Deadly ties: IDC Proposes Hospital Ban on Infection Causing Neck Wear; Other Bacteria Carrying Clothing. May 3, 2011.

O’Reilly, K.B. New York Bill Seeks Physician Dress Code to Cut Infections. Amednews.com. May 23, 2011.

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