Darwin Private Hospital has implemented numerous infection control procedures, and staff take every precaution to prevent infections. However, some patients have a higher risk of acquiring an infection in hospital. Patients with wounds, invasive devices (such as drips) and weakened immune systems are at greater risk of infection than the general public. We need to avoid infections because they may cause illness to the patient, resulting in a longer stay in hospital and a longer recovery time.
What are Healthcare Associated Infections?
Healthcare associated infections (HAI) are infections that occur as a result of healthcare interventions and are caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses. They can happen when you are being treated in hospital, at home, in a GP Clinic, a nursing home or any other healthcare facility.
Some infections occur after an invasive procedure such as surgery and can be treated with antibiotics. However there are some infections such as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile that are more difficult to treat because they are resistant to certain antibiotics.
The risk of getting these infections depends on how healthy you are, how long you have been in hospital and certain medications that you take (including antibiotics).
These specific infections require the use of special antibiotics and, at times, special precautions which may include placement in a single room and the use of personal protective equipment such as gloves and gowns.
What is Darwin Private Hospital doing to prevent infections?
Specialised Infection Control staff collect data on hospital acquired infections and analyse the data to identify patterns and trends. Infection rates are shared and discussed with clinicians in an effort to identify and implement the best practices to reduce the risks for infection.
There are several types of infections that we closely monitor at Darwin Private Hospital. Both are caused by bacteria. You may have heard of these:
- Clostridium difficile - this is an infection of the bowel that causes diarrhoea
- Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia – known as “SAB” for short. This is a serious infection caused when this bacteria enters the blood stream
This graph shows the number of Staphylococcus aureus infections at Darwin Private Hospital for the year ending 2014 compared with the Australian Government target. The graph shows the number of infections that occur for every 10,000 patient days. The national benchmark for Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia in Australian public hospitals is no more than 2 cases per 10,000 patient days. Patients at Darwin Private Hospital on average have a very low number of infections and the above rate represents 2 patients.
This graph shows the number of Clostridium difficile infections at Darwin Private Hospital compared with the rate typical in other hospitals in Australia. Rates of infection typically vary from state to state. The rate varies from 2 to 3 cases per 10,000 days of patient care, so the industry rate reflects this range. The graph shows the number of infections that occur for every 10,000 patient days. Patients at Darwin Private Hospital on average have a very low number of infections and the above rate refers to 1 patient.
Not all patients contract clostridium difficile in hospital - some patients are admitted already having this condition. The chart above shows all cases of cdiff identified in hospital, both community and hospital-acquired. The chart below shows whether or not the patient was admitted already having this condition. Hospitals need to identify both types of patients in order to have the best chance of preventing Cdiff from spreading to other patients.
To find out how we generated this data, see: Infection Rate Formulas
What we are doing to further reduce infections
Improvement strategies may vary from hospital to hospital. Examples are:
- Watching, auditing and measuring how often staff wash their hands using soap and water or hand sanitiser.
- Routine use of gloves and specially sterilised equipment.
- An Infection Control Nurse in each hospital, to investigate issues, educate staff and carry out strategies to reduce infections.
- Use of specialised approved disinfectants for cleaning and disinfecting rooms, bathrooms, equipment and shared areas. High level disinfection and sterilisation are used according to national guidelines.
- Placement of hand sanitiser dispensers in public areas throughout our hospitals including hallways, elevators and cafeterias, making this readily accessible to staff, patients, families and visitors.
- If additional precautions are required, staff may wear gloves, gowns, masks and goggles.
How can you help?
At Darwin Private Hospital, patients and visitors are part of the health care team. Hand washing is the most important way that patients and visitors can prevent the spread of infection in hospital. Waterless hand sanitiser is just as effective as washing with soap and water. Hospital staff will appreciate a reminder from patients or relatives if they forget to wash their hands.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of infection:
- Wash your hands carefully with soap and water or use hand sanitiser upon entering the hospital
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (or into your elbow if you don't have one). Clean your hands afterwards – every time!
- Report any infection you have had, especially if you are still on antibiotics
- Make sure you take the full course of antibiotics you have been given, even if you are feeling better
- If you have a dressing or a wound, keep the skin around the dressing clean and dry. Let the healthcare worker looking after you know promptly if it becomes loose or wet
- Tell the healthcare worker looking after you if the area around the drips, lines, tubes or drains inserted into your body becomes red swollen or painful.
- Let the healthcare worker looking after you know if your room or equipment hasn't been cleaned properly
- Stop smoking before any surgery, as smoking increases the risk of infection.
- Reconsider your visit if you have an illness such as a cough, cold or gastroenteritis
- Wash your hands carefully with soap and water or use hand sanitiser when entering and leaving a patient’s room
For more information about how you can help: