A tech-savvy perspective on a Toronto hospital’s ban on magazines

Magazines have been banned in a Toronto hospital — not by censors, or literary watchdogs or because of controversial commentary — because of germs that could lead to the spread of disease.

The Globe and Mail article “Hospital bans waiting-room magazines” explains how, since the staff at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital (WCH) can’t properly disinfect their potentially disease-ridden magazines, they’ve cleared them off waiting room tables.  

WCH’s Chief of Staff Jim Ruderman — cautious about the spread of disease — notes how “when a magazine or newspaper is being held for a period of time, people may be coughing, may be sneezing.” However, a 2005 study from the British Journal of General Practice found low levels of contamination on magazines. And moreover, Shirley Paton of the Public Health Agency of Canada notes how germs and disease can spread anywhere — from grocery shopping carts to subway straps — “so the emphasis has to be on good hand hygiene.”  

The article’s readers share interesting comments, and keeping in touch with the digital world, one notes how cell phones, iPhones and BlackBerrys are keeping waiting patients busy these days. This tech-savvy comment leads one to wonder if smartphones will come to replace the printed magazines that entertained WCH’s waiting room guests. In a digitally advanced world full of smartphone users — conveniently able to surf a favorite magazine’s headlines online — how important are printed magazines? Do smartphone users enjoy the comfort that comes with flipping through a magazine while waiting in a waiting room in distress, or do their digital applications keep them satisfied and preoccupied enough?

Whether you’re reading a public magazine or holding your own smartphone, ‘tis the season of sneezing, so following Paton’s advice — being sure to sanitize, sanitize, sanitize — seems like a holly, jolly choice. 

To read more about this topic, visit the CBC article “Toronto hospital bans wait room magazines,” the Yahoo! Canada article “Toronto hospital bans wait room magazines,” the CityNews article “Hospital Bans Magazines From Waiting Rooms” and the Toronto Sun article “Hospital tosses waiting room magazines.” And while you’re surfing these headlines, have your say in a CBC poll that asks: “Should all hospitals ban magazines in waiting rooms to curb the spread of germs?