Recent outbreaks of norovirus in southern rest-homes and
hospitals have prompted Public Health South to call for the
rapid development of a surveillance system.
In a report to a Southern District Health Board committee
meeting tomorrow, Public Health South says it has been unable
to find the cause of some outbreaks.
''For several of the recent outbreaks in the elderly care
facilities and hospitals, it has been difficult to determine
whether they reflect high levels of infection circulating in
the community, cross-infection due to patient and/or staff
movements between facilities, or a combination of both.
''Recent events have shown the need to rapidly develop a
surveillance system for all healthcare-acquired infections
within this district.''
The system would involve mandatory reporting in DHB
facilities and DHB-contracted providers, better communication
with facilities, improved management of patients moving
between providers, audits and root cause analysis.
Public Health South investigated 11 outbreaks of
gastroenteritis that happened between May 1 and June 4: two
early childhood centres, one disability support home, six
rest-homes, Clutha Health First and two wards in Dunedin
Hospital. All up, 252 people were ill, including 62 staff.
''In five of these outbreaks, norovirus has been identified
as the causative organism, with laboratory results still
pending from several outbreaks.
''Outbreaks within [community] facilities represent a
significant threat to the health of vulnerable people.
''Outbreaks within hospitals represent a serious breach of
the duty of care and highlight a need for system responses.''
Outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis are notifiable to Public
Public Health South medical officer of health Marion Poore
told the Otago Daily Times it was possible a new
strain of norovirus was causing the higher-than-usual
''We haven't got all our strain information back yet from
A surveillance system enabled more co-ordination on a local
level than the notification system. It would take time to
implement in the community-based providers, she suggested.
Presbyterian Support Otago services for older people director
Maurice Burrowes said when contacted he would need more
information before commenting on the proposed surveillance
Ross Home and Hospital, which is operated by PSO, experienced
a two-week outbreak in May.
Mr Burrowes said there seemed to be more norovirus around
Outbreaks were ''hugely'' expensive for residential
facilities, because of increased use of supplies and staff
Increasing numbers of dementia patients presented an
infection control challenge, he said.