DEAR ABBY: I am writing this as I sit in a hospital at my daughter's bedside. When staff comes into her room, she asks them to wash their hands in front of her before putting on their gloves. Several doctors took offense at this. We even posted a note on the door, asking the staff to wash up inside the room. Were we wrong? She doesn't want to increase her risk of infection. I would think that a patient worried about proper hygiene would not be sneered at by the people trying to get her healthy. -- TRYING TO STAY HEALTHY
DEAR TRYING TO STAY HEALTHY: Bravo to you for speaking up! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospital-acquired infections have cost the hospital industry $30 billion and resulted in 100,000 patient deaths. A 2013 New York Times article reported that unless pushed to do so, hospital workers wash their hands only as little as 30 percent of the time they interact with patients. The problem is so widespread that some hospitals must monitor workers via video cameras or have them wear electronic badges to "encourage" compliance, while others have resorted to "bribing" workers to do the right thing.
You were not wrong to ask staffers at your daughter's hospital to wash their hands. Nobody should feel reluctant to ask for something that is standard procedure.
Because many patients in hospitals and care facilities feel vulnerable and dependent, they fear that staff will "dislike" them if they ask for too much. For patients to request handwashing is not only in their best interest, but also the hospital's. Too often, change doesn't happen in the medical profession until patients speak up and advocate for their own well-being. You would not have been "sneered at" if your request hadn't made those individuals feel defensive.