Hospital infection rate about 7% in South

A new report has warned about 7% of southern hospital patients might suffer from an infection while being cared for.

The findings, from an audit carried out of all district health boards by the Health Quality and Safety Commission, suggested infection rates in New Zealand hospitals were equivalent to those in Europe.

The audit results were released just as the Southern District Health Board signed off on an action plan to reduce all hospital-acquired complications, including infections.

‘‘Healthcare-associated infections can negatively impact on the physical and mental health of patients and their whanau and can extend the length of a patient’s stay in hospital or result in being readmitted to hospital or require multiple follow-up appointments,’’ HQSC infection prevention national clinical lead Sally Roberts said.

‘All these experiences can result in significant disability, as well as social, financial and emotional distress . . . this survey has helped us better understand the impact of infections on adult patients and will help identify areas for quality improvement.’’

In the South the HQSC surveyed 20 wards across two hospitals and checked the treatment of 315 patients.

Of those cases, 23 suffered healthcare-associated infections: a prevalence rate of 7.3% ranked the SDHB seventh-highest of the 20 DHBs.

Capital and Coast Health had an infection rate just over 10%, followed by Hawke’s Bay (9.6%).

Infections were most common in intensive care and surgical patients rather than in medical patients.

Four types of infection made up three-quarters of all infections: surgical site infections (25%), urinary tract infections (19%), pneumonia (18%) and bloodstream infections (13%).

Dr Roberts said the survey was done to establish how extensive infection issues were in New Zealand hospitals, identify common risk factors, and to raise awareness of the problem so as to reduce their occurrence.

The SDHB’s new action plan identified infections as one of its priority areas for improvement, particularly at Dunedin Hospital.

The board had been tracking below the national infection rate since January 2020, and has been dropping since the middle of last year.

However, national rates have also been trending down and in the last quarter the SDHB matched the ‘‘red alert’’ for infection rates.

The board has made what it called ‘‘significant investment’’ in infection prevention and control and hoped to reduce its rate of infections further.


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