The Republic of OSHA

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No, this did not use to be part of the Soviet Union. OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal bureaucracy. For years it has kept itself busy with the laudible aim of improving safety in the workplace. Now it has decided that doctors’ offices are hotbeds of AIDS and hepatitis, and in the name of protecting the public, has extended its authority to the offices of health care providers. The regulations are so complex that a summary by the New York State Medical Society was more than 350 pages long. Nevertheless ignorance of the law is no excuse, and a violation carries a fine of $1,000 to $70,000. Anything that may come in contact with a patient’s body fluids is considered potentially infectious, and must be disposed d by specially licensed companies, who charge steeply for the service. Washable items can not be laundered at home, but must be laundered by commercial laundries or in the office where they were “contaminated.” Since many laundries are reluctant to accept white coats in red bags marked HAZARD, many doctors are now installing washing machines in their offices. Of course, there is no logical reason why OSHA should stop here. What about diabetics and their needles? What about, how do I put it delicately, menstruating women? Hysterectomies, anyone?