SDHB works to reduce infection rates

The Southern District Health Board is working with outside experts to establish why its numbers of infections of all types rose last year.

The recently released ACC report Supporting Treatment Safety showed Southern recorded 42 infections of all types in 2016-17 — up from 34 the previous year.

Southern’s infection rate has consistently tracked below the average for all DHBs but it was not alone in seeing a rise in infections last year.

The  report said  infection-related claim numbers had been rising at a faster rate than the increase in the population.

"This may be due to higher reporting, more people being harmed, or perhaps both to a degree," it said.

"Greater understanding is needed of the extent and nature of patient harm, and there is a strong case for investment in injury prevention."

The SDHB has enlisted help to analyse the numbers and establish whether they represented any  trend, chief medical officer Nigel Millar said.

"Interpreting these results is not straightforward, as it is difficult to understand the extent to which changes and differences reflect different reporting practices.

"With greater emphasis on developing a culture where adverse events or treatment injuries are reported, we would expect these numbers to increase."

Dr Millar said the SDHB was mindful each infection represented a negative effect on a patient, and all such events were taken seriously.

Infection control was an important challenge and priority, and the SDHB took part in the Health Quality and Safety Commission’s reducing harm from infection programmes.

"We are also continuing to develop and improve our processes for monitoring infection through the SDHB Infection Prevention and Control Surveillance programme.

"This work has recently led to reduction in infections in critical areas."

The SDHB also runs a hand hygiene programme, and held events a fortnight ago to mark World Hand Hygiene day.

"We also undertake practices that are designed to reduce the risk of infections, for example through the appropriate use of antibiotics, skin preparation prior to surgical incision, utilising specific dressings, monitoring the length of time intravenous lines or central lines are in place, and ensuring the correct technique for insertion of central lines," Dr Millar said.

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