Handwashing to prevent the spread of disease is not a new idea, and you are probably used to seeing signs posted in restaurants and other public places in New York reminding people to wash their hands. In health care, where providers come in contact with bacteria frequently, it is particularly important for all staff to sanitize their hands before engaging with a patient. However, according to the New York Times, low compliance is a problem that may be a contributor to hospital-acquired infections, which cause thousands of preventable fatalities every year.
You may not think it is necessary to monitor a doctor or nurse who walks into a patient’s hospital room. However, one hospital used surveillance to determine hand-washing rates and discovered they were below 10 percent compliant. Other research indicates that compliance is often as low as 30 percent in most hospitals where there is not a program in place to compel staff to observe safe hygiene practices.
Any infection transferred from one patient to another via health care worker is an unnecessary risk that should never happen. Many hospitals have enacted protocols and performance-based programs to encourage proper hand-washing techniques, but these vary depending on the facility. To kill germs, a person needs to wash his or her hands for at least 15 seconds.
Experts point out that you have the right to ask workers who enter the hospital room whether they have disinfected their hands. This information about health care facility hand-hygiene is provided for your education, but it should not be interpreted as legal advice.