A Silver Spring woman writes: "You were very kind in your reference to "the truly beautiful people who devote their lives to the healing arts." Too kind.

"I could tell you some real horror stories about people who work in hospitals. I could tell you true stories about negligence, carelessness, incompetence, patients permitted to lie in their own excreta for hours, really sick patients falling and injuring themselves when their calls for help were ignored by the nursing staff. The Washington Post has been a crusader on some issues. It ought to investigate and evaluate some of the not-so-beautiful people who work in hospitals. Please do not put my name in the paper. I will have to go back into the hospital soon, and people who have been criticized have a way of getting even."

Because so many people are hospitalized on my given day and because their lives sometimes depend on the kind of care they get, or fail to get, I agree that the quality of the care provided by our hospitals is an important story. It merits attention - attention of the right kind.

An investigation would undoubtedly turn up evidence of negligence and incompetence - possibly more than one might find in other fields, possibly less, possibly the same amount. An investigation of The Washington Post or any other large organization would also be a good bet to turn up negligent and incompetent people.

The issue, therefore, is not whether people or institutions are perfect, but whether they are genuinely concerned about - and working to remedy - their imperfections.

To my mind, that would be a proper subject for inquiry. A one-shot crusade aimed at "getting" somebody wouldn't be nearly as useful as monitoring the quality of hospital care on a continuing basis. I think that this newspaper and its energetic competitor, The Washington Star, have done that in the past, and I hope both will continue to do it in the future.