In Malaysia, there has been three strings of public furore over dress codes. So the question is, is there a dress code in Malaysian hospitals, with emphasis on public hospitals? The latest incident on June 16 was recounted by Facebook user Nisha Daddygal, who uploaded the following on her publicly accessible page.
The woman was wearing a pair of black shorts and t-shirt. She was allegedly barred from entering the hospital compound by the security for exposing her knees, forcing her to borrow a towel to wrap around her waist in order to enter the premises.
The hospital in question, Hospital Sg. Buloh, has since apologised for the incident. Hospital director, Dr. Khalid Ibrahim, cited a “miscommunication” as the cause for the incident, saying that is neither hospital nor the Ministry of Health’s prerogative to bar people from the hospital based on their attire.
This sentiment was backed by Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, the Director General of Health. He said, “We have a dress code guideline for visitors but it’s just a guideline and doesn’t mean we bar people from entering.” Of course, he hopes that people maintain some sense of social decorum and dress appropriately, but it is not within the hospitals to strictly enforce a dress code.
The guideline by Hospital Sg. Buloh is shown below.
It is interesting to note that men also have guidelines to adhere to, yet all previous incidents involved women. Are these hints of gender discrimination?
The real question, however, is…
Should hospitals have dress codes for visitors?
Dress codes in hospitals in Malaysia or otherwise, is not a new phenomenon. In fact, private hospitals in the United States have been known to turn away visitors that dress ‘inappropriately’. One such hospital is Mesilla Valley Hospital, which defines ‘inappropriate dress‘ as spaghetti strap blouses, shirts that expose the midriff, clothes that are too tight or baggy and anything that features gang, alcohol or drug paraphernalia.
Dress codes in general are implemented for various reasons, such as to look professional, protect organisations from sexual harassment, remove guesswork as to what is appropriate in an organisation or place, to create certain impressions, for security and health reasons, for religious reasons, and so on.
InfoMed took to the streets to find out the Malaysian public’s view on dress codes in hospitals. For simplicity sake, this question will be answered in the context of public (i.e government) hospitals.
“Yes, there should be some dress code – modest coverage of the skin. Hospitals are full of germs and bacteria from sick people, a dress code will give you a guideline on how to protect yourself better. ”
– Fatin Liyana, Lab Technician
Opinions from people in the health services generally lean towards practicality, citing health concerns as a reason to introduce a guideline to visitors. Chris Ng reminds, “Of course there’s a standard procedure for biohazard disposal, but you can never be too careful. Imagine wearing thin flip flops and accidentally stepping on something that could give you hepatitis B.”
Others of course, have different views.
“Dress code for what? If it’s an emergency and someone shows up in a bikini, no one should deny them treatment or visiting rights. It’d be distracting, sure, but we’re human beings, not animals.”
– Krishnan K, Marketeer
“No. If everyone starts implementing their own sets of dress codes, imagine the amount of extra clothes we’d have to carry around! People just need to be more aware and use common sense.”
– Elwin Chin, Youth
Possible conclusion? Guidelines should remain as unenforced guidelines, and people should use common sense and dress appropriately and with respect to institutions.
What are your thoughts, Malaysia?