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Hospital staff told to wash their own scrubs

FRONTLINE staff at the Mater Hospital in Dublin have been told they not only have to buy their own scrubs from now on -- but they'll have to wash them as well.

The hospital hopes to save €40,000 under the plan, however there are fears the measure could lead to an increase in hospital superbugs such as MRSA.

Albert Murphy, an industrial relations officer with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said: "From an infection point of view, this is completely retrograde."

He said staff will have to pay extra for the green or blue scrubs, which are more expensive than generic types because they bear the hospital logo.

He said that the staff have been cleaning their own protective wear for the past three weeks.

And he said that from now on, any member who needs new scrubs will have to buy them themselves.

The Mater Hospital said that guidelines had been given to staff on how to properly wash their scrubs, which are worn over their regular clothes.

The hospital said: "In consultation and agreement with the relevant staff members, this initiative was introduced in areas where uniforms were traditionally worn, for example emergency department, dialysis, oncology and haematology day wards."


It said: "There is no infection control issue with this new measure."

However, Trinity College microbiology expert Professor Ronnie Russell said that staff would have to put their scrubs through a special cleaning process to kill all bacteria, because putting hospital clothing through a domestic washing machine will not remove all germs found in a ward or accident and emergency unit.

He said that clothing should be washed separately and should not be put in with regular clothing.

The first wash can be done at a normal temperature, but this is purely to remove stains and not to kill any dangerous microorganisms, so they should be put through a second hot wash.

He said that heat is essential in killing MRSA and other bugs which hospital staff come into contact with.

Prof Russell said also that detergent is not a disinfectant at all, it only removes dirt. Superbug infections cost the health service here an estimated €80m every year.