Saturday, May 24, 2008

Letter to Doctor Who Didn't Wash His Hands

Dear Dr.

On May 16, 2008, on the recommendation of my trusted pediatrician, I brought my son to you to look at his sore throat.

Though initially impressed by the short waiting room stay – just ten minutes, the exam room experience was not acceptable. It went like this:

You had a conversation with my son and myself, wrote your notes and very quickly grabbed your headgear and tools. You checked his ears and nose tore open a wooden stick for his mouth and examined his throat with a stick that touched your ungloved and unwashed hands.

Your actions were so quick I did not even have time to stop you other than to scream which would have upset my son terribly. All the while I assumed at some point you would have stopped to wash your hands, use gel or practice some sort of hand hygiene. It never happened.

This lack of proper hand hygiene broke all policies and standards per Joint Commission, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Institute of Healthcare Improvement, National Patient Safety Foundation and Centers for Disease Control, for infection control. If these are your office practices, the hand hygiene practices in your surgical and hospital settings may be equally at-risk.

There are over 90,000 deaths a year from hospital acquired infections. Hand washing is the simplest rule to infection control. Health care professionals must be setting examples and practice basic hand hygiene to promote the reduction of spread of infection.

This happened in your office of 875 Old Country Rd, Plainview, the same building that only months earlier there was a protest and press about Dr. Harvey Finkelstein’s unsafe infection control practices gaining national public attention. As a mom, and a patient safety advocate educating patients and families on their rights for safe, quality and competent care, I am disappointed at myself for not speaking up sooner. Even more so I am deeply troubled that you would treat my child with such disrespect and unsanitary practices.

If this was not a standard patient interaction for you can you help me understand how it could have happened at all? May I share with you much of the information I have as a patient safety advocate for the past twelve years?

This experience will be a great springboard to share with others the importance of proper hand awareness in my patient safety education workshops. I just hope this does not cause a new concern in my son’s health care, or with others you or he may come in contact with.


Ilene Corina,

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