Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Water, Water Everywhere, And Don't You Dare Drink A Drop!

It’s not like there aren’t real hazards in hospitals: cancer-causing sterilents like ethylene oxide and formaldehyde, cancer-causing anticancer drugs, communicable diseases, contaminated syringes and sharps. And then, of course, there are the back injuries from lifting patients and violence from patients and their families. And it’s not like hospitals have been particularly cooperative in advocating for prevention: fighting the bloodborne pathogens standard, the ergonomics standard, the tuberculosis standard, and currently fighting annual fit testing for health care workers who have to wear respirators to prevent exposure to tuberculosis.

But put a bottle of drinking water on your desk, and suddenly they're very concerned about their employees’ safety.
Water, water, everywhere - except on the desks of the city's biggest employer.

Supervisors at UMass Memorial Medical Center are being deluged with the fallout of a newly enforced policy that bans food or beverages, including bottled water, from the work areas of employees who have any contact with patients. Coupled with a recent crackdown on personal pictures and drawings in workstations, the policy has drawn the ire of everyone from dietitians to doctors.

"Please provide me with a rationale for this policy, which I find inhumane, unnecessary and terrible for morale," wrote Dr. Michael J. Thompson, associate professor of medicine and director of the diabetes clinic, in an e-mail last week to administrators.
The hospital says its because of Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Hospitals standards, but JCAHO says they don’t have such a standard. Well, it’s not really a JCAHO rule, but JCAHO has a rule that says that hospitals have to follow their own policies and the hospital has a policy that employees can’t have water on their desks, so they’d be in violation of a JCAHO rule if they didn’t enforce their own stupid policy. Then they say it’s because of an OSHA regulation that’s “designed to protect the staff from contracting an illness or infection from patients”. But the bloodborne pathogens standard is the only communicable disease regulation that OSHA has and the last I heard you can’t get AIDS or hepatitis B from the water bottle on your desk. Then there’s OSHA’s laboratory standard that prohibits eating around lab specimens and toxic chemicals, but doesn’t say anything about workers' cubicles.

Curiouser and curiouser.