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Australia’s major public hospitals have recorded a marked fall
in the rate of healthcare-associated ‘Golden Staph’ bloodstream
infections, the latest report from the National Health Performance
Authority (NHPA) shows.
The number of these potentially deadly infections fell by 100, from 1,721
in 2012/13 to 1,621 in 2013/14. The report shows major public hospitals
reported 88 fewer cases in 2013/14 compared to the previous year.
However, the report also shows that large differences remain
between individual hospitals, with patients still up to three times more
likely to catch this bloodstream infection depending on the hospital
where they receive care.
Golden Staph, more correctly known as Staphylococcus aureus (S.
aureus), is a bacterium often found on the skin of healthy people.
It is relatively harmless unless it enters the body, where it can cause
serious illness if it gets into the bloodstream. Most cases can be
treated by antibiotics, but there are more serious antibiotic-resistant
strains. Estimates suggest 20 to 35 percent of people who experience
healthcare-associated S. aureus bloodstream infections die from this
or a related cause, and some patients (such as those with impaired
immunity) are more susceptible than others.
Today’s report only counts healthcare-associated cases of S. aureus
bloodstream infections, which means it identifies infections that
patients develop during the course of medical care or treatment
provided by hospitals. To enable fair comparisons, the report allocates
hospitals into four peer groups: ‘major hospitals with more vulnerable
patients’, ‘major hospitals with fewer vulnerable patients’, ‘large
hospitals with more vulnerable patients’ and ‘large hospitals with
fewer vulnerable patients’.
Australia’s major and large public hospitals together accounted for
nearly 90 percent of the healthcare-associated S. aureusbloodstream
infections reported in 2013/14.
The report highlights variation in the rate of healthcare-associated
S. aureus bloodstream infections across similar hospitals.
At major hospitals with more vulnerable patients, the rate of
infection was more than three times higher at some hospitals than
others, ranging from 0.59 cases per 10,000 patient bed days at
Wollongong Hospital to 2.32 at St Vincent’s Hospital (NSW)
At major hospitals with fewer vulnerable patients the rate of
infection showed a similar level of variation, ranging from 0 cases
per 10,000 patient bed days at South West Warrnambool to 1.67 at
Frankston Hospital (Vic).
National Health Perfor mance Authority CEO Dr Diane Watson said
through nationally consistent reporting hospitals are able to see their
results and how they compare with hospitals that are similar in size and
services. Public reporting of healthcare-associated infection rates abroad
is associated with a substantial reduction in these types of infections.
“While the reduction of about 100 cases is an improvement, we
should remember that every healthcare-associated bloodstream
Marked fall in
infection is both potentially deadly and preventable,” Dr Watson said.
“Differences in the rate of infection suggest there is an opportunity for
hospitals to continue to learn from each other to lower infection rates.”
The government-agreed target calls for a rate of no more than 2.0
healthcare-associated S. aureus bloodstream infections per 10,000
patient bed days for each state and territory.
Individual hospital results, including results for private hospitals, are
available at www.myhospitals.gov.au
Handwashing a major factor
The Australian’s national health reporter Sue Dunlevy wrote a
comprehensive article that looked at specific hospitals. She also spoke
with ANU infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon.
Dunlevy’s report noted that in total there were 1,621 cases of
healthcare associated staphylococcus aureus and ANU infectious
diseases expert Professor Peter Collignonsaid this compares with
around 4,000 infections a year more than a decade ago.
“Two thousand fewer episodes a year means you are talking 400
fewer deaths per year,” he noted.
Professor Collignon explained that counting the infections had
forced hospitals to focus on the issues and the number of healthcare
acquired infections had plunged by 50 per cent in the last decade.
He said a mixture of hand washing and improvements in the
insertion and changing of intravenous lines used to deliver treatment
were behind the improvement.
CDC microbiologist, Valerie Albrecht, holds up two plates of
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). www.cdc.gov
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