Med­i­cal coun­cil re­view­ing prac­tices

Women say tam­pons were banned in ex­ams

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - LIFE - AMY SMART

The Med­i­cal Coun­cil of Canada says it’s re­view­ing its prac­tices af­ter be­ing crit­i­cized on­line for pro­hibit­ing women from bring­ing tam­pons or men­strual pads into exam rooms while writ­ing mul­ti­hour tests.

Dr. Michelle Co­hen, ad­vo­cacy chair­woman with Cana­dian Women in Medicine, said it’s “sex­ist and un­fair” to con­fis­cate fem­i­nine hy­giene prod­ucts from exam tak­ers, or to re­quire them to ask exam su­per­vi­sors for ac­cess to them in the mid­dle of a test.

“It’s just a com­pletely dis­gust­ing over­reach and out­ra­geously in­va­sive,” Co­hen said in an in­ter­view from Brighton, Ont., where she works as a fam­ily doc­tor.

Co­hen launched a pe­ti­tion call­ing for change, say­ing that mak­ing men­strual prod­ucts avail­able in wash­rooms doesn’t ad­e­quately solve the prob­lem be­cause exam writ­ers are en­ti­tled to use the prod­uct of their choice.

While women now out­num­ber men in med­i­cal schools, she said gen­der par­ity has not worked its way up to lead­er­ship po­si­tions. “When we look at med­i­cal lead­er­ship it hasn’t re­ally changed the same way that move­ment in the pro­fes­sion has re­ally changed, has re­ally fem­i­nized. So a lot of those rules are still quite an­ti­quated and re­flect a sex­ist bias,” she said.

In a re­cent state­ment, the coun­cil said it does not have a pol­icy on the use and ac­cess to men­strual prod­ucts dur­ing ex­ams, but per­sonal items such as purses, bags and back­packs are not per­mit­ted in the exam area.

It said bags stored away on site can be ac­cessed by staff on re­quest, and test tak­ers can also re­quest to use the wash­room and can re­quest to have ac­cess to nec­es­sary per­sonal items but it must be un­der su­per­vi­sion by exam ad­min­is­tra­tors.

“We sin­cerely re­gret any frus­tra­tion that this has caused,” the state­ment said.

“A group is be­ing es­tab­lished to re­view cur­rent prac­tices and we look for­ward to col­lab­o­rat­ing with learn­ers to iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties for im­prove­ment in these prac­tices mov­ing for­ward.”

Dr. Alana Fleet, who is on the ex­ec­u­tive of the Res­i­dent Doc­tors of Canada, said she took an exam with the med­i­cal coun­cil in Oc­to­ber in Van­cou­ver. Rules about what you can bring into the exam room are out­lined on the med­i­cal coun­cil’s web­site.

“Es­sen­tially you are to have a lab coat, re­flex ham­mer, stetho­scope and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Any other valu­ables that you bring, those are deemed un­ac­cept­able and placed in item­ized bags and stored at the side,” Fleet said.

Res­i­dent Doc­tors of Canada, which rep­re­sents about 10,000 physi­cians, has been work­ing with the med­i­cal coun­cil to change its pol­icy, she said.

In the past, she said the coun­cil re­quired test tak­ers to pre-reg­is­ter and de­clare health ac­com­mo­da­tions. That was prob­lem­atic for un­pre­dictable things like men­stru­a­tion, she said, and the pol­icy was elim­i­nated for this year’s ex­ams. It’s a step in the right di­rec­tion but it would be bet­ter if women could just bring the prod­ucts of their choice with­out ask­ing per­mis­sion to ac­cess them, she said.

“Yes, we have to bal­ance exam in­tegrity, but at the end of the day they’re go­ing to have to draw the line some­where and we’re go­ing to have to re­spect per­sonal au­ton­omy in women mak­ing their own health de­ci­sions. That’s ul­ti­mately what I’d like to see,” she said.

MARTIN BU­REAU/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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