Ohio health system's new dress code: Mandates underwear, bans "extreme" hair colors

Akron, Ohio's Summa Health Systems, Inc. has issued new guidelines for healthcare workers forbidding certain hair colors, long beards, exposed skin and "going commando," according to Cleveland's Fox 8 News.

Summa will no longer allow nurses and other care providers to sport certain styles of dress and unnatural or faddish hair colors. They must cover their legs all the way to the ankle, which means they can't wear capris pants or skirts without tights or panty hose. Men must trim their beards to half an inch or less. And everyone, the guidelines said, must wear underwear.

All tattoos and body piercings must be covered or removed. No more than two earrings are allowed per ear and any open-toed shoes are now off-limits.

The rules echo other hospital dress codes that ban ties and watches to reduce the risk of infections such as MRSA and C. diff.

The massive healthcare conglomerate operates Akron City Hospital, St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Barberton Hospital, Summa Rehab and Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls, as well as dozens of outpatient clinics, ambulatory surgical centers and other facilities. 

In a statement, spokesman Mike Bernstein urged critics not to focus too closely on specific facets of the guidelines, which were created "with direct involvement from a number of clinical and non-clinical people from across the organization and also is representative of the feedback that we receive from our patients," according to the Akron Beacon-Journal.

When Summa CEO Tom Malone, M.D. was asked at a press conference why the dress code regulations are needed, he quipped, "Have you been to Walmart? People who left the house actually thought they looked good some days. There should be a certain level of professionalism at a healthcare institution that is a little higher bar."

To learn more:
- here's the Fox 8 report
- read the Beacon-Journal article.