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That warning came yesterday in a joint statement by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) and the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID).
Common infection-causing bacteria were developing resistance to antibiotics and standard treatments were becoming "ineffective against common infections", the statement said.
RACP NZ president Dr Jonathan Christiansen said antimicrobial resistance was already a serious issue in this country, and "we can’t easily treat" some "critically ill" patients in hospital.
He urged the Government to lead a "well-resourced programme of antimicrobial stewardship, including guidelines on prescribing and appropriate use of antibiotics".
ASID New Zealand committee chairwoman Dr Kerry Read, who was in Dunedin yesterday to attend a health conference, said promoting the wise use of antimicrobials such as antibiotics was a key part of effective antimicrobial management and control. And this topic was highlighted at yesterday morning’s session of ASID’s New Zealand annual meeting, which is being held in the city.
Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand clinical lead for infection prevention and control programmes Dr Sally Roberts, of Auckland, gave a talk on antimicrobial stewardship.
She said hospital-related infection problems had been reduced at Auckland Hospital, but she emphasised the need to avoid complacency and to keep hands clean in hospital, particularly by using alcohol-based hand cleansers.
Dr Read noted that this was the first time this ASID meeting had been held "back to back" with an Otago Global Health Institute conference, hosted earlier this week by the University of Otago Centre for International Health.
Linking the two gatherings was beneficial and helped to cross-fertilise ideas among participants, Dr Read said.
The ASID meeting ends today.