Muslim medics get disposable headscarf scrubs for surgery
LARA BRADLEY DISPOSABLE sterile headscarves are to be made available in Irish hospitals, after Muslim medical students complained they were discriminated against by being expected to remove their hijab and don a surgical cap before entering surgery.
Beaumont Hospital in Dublin is the first in the country to order supplies of sterile scarves after students there complained to the Irish Medical Organisation that they felt "exposed" and "naked" wearing traditional Irish surgical scrubs.
Leader of the Islamic Society at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Abadi Sufaat Mohd Badri, said: "Irregularities in the health and safety protocol in Ireland, specifically in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, have rendered our Muslim sisters in a difficult situation.
"They have to take off their hijab upon entering the operating theatre, and put on the surgical cap which, of course, does not cover the neck. They also have to wear a short-sleeve, v-neck scrub. This is a major concern to all Muslim females, not to mention other students who complained they feel a bit 'exposed' or 'naked' in that dress.
"The hospital's concern was that the hijab could harbour germs, but so do neck ties, white coats and even your skin. The uniform covers the head, but not the neck and students had to make modifications by wearing layers of caps to try to get covered."
Although surgical hoods, which cover the neck and shoulders, are often provided as an alternative to surgical caps, the students say these are not always available in Irish hospitals and they would prefer proper surgical scarves made from squares of cotton material.
Beaumont Hospital has already begun sourcing supplies of disposable hijab for the medical students and staff who may wish to wear them.
A spokesman said: "Over the years we have had many Muslim staff and this issue hasn't been raised before. The problem is that the head-coverings we have don't cover the shoulders. We don't keep information on our staff's religious beliefs, but we responded immediately once this matter was brought to our attention."
But, according to the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, the problems do not end there.
Student Services Officer Philip Curtis said: "The ongoing issue with a small number of students is not the headscarves, but the fact that they don't want to expose their arms. Some procedures require that you are scrubbed from the elbows down and it is an issue of sterility that you cannot cover your arms.
"They are not being discriminated against. There are issues around patient safety. We take these issues very seriously, and are addressing them, but there must be a balance between sensitivity to the multicultural society we live in and the necessity to ensure a medical education is supplied which is safe for the student and the patient."
It is likely disposable hijab will now be demanded in other hospitals across the country.
Irish Medical Organisation Director of Industrial Relations, Fintan Hourihan, said: "The first request we received was about a specific hospital, and Beaumont readily agreed to provide the hijab. If people feel it is an issue in other hospitals we are confident it will be as easily resolved there."