Unwashed hands in hospitals spread infections
New hand hygiene data had been loaded onto the MyHospitals website and is being made publicly available for the first time, showing reasons for concern.
Doctors and nurses will be given more information about how they can continue to protect their patients from the spread of infectious diseases with the release of new national data on how often hospital staff wash their hands.
The data showed that nurses washed their hands more frequently than doctors, who needed to lift their game to protect patients from potentially very serious cross-infections.
The simple act of washing our hands is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of infectious diseases in our hospitals.
The release of new data will give doctors and nurses the information they need to continue driving down infection rates for diseases such as serious staph blood infections in their hospitals.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said patients had a right to know about the performance of their public hospitals and that the publication of hand hygiene rates will help improve hospital safety and quality.
She said the MyHospitals website uses a ‘speed dial’ to show rates of hand hygiene for 233 public hospitals, compared to a national benchmark of 70%.
The 70% benchmark is an interim benchmark based on advice from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and is used to compare how often staff in a hospital follow hand hygiene procedures before and after coming into contact with patients. The benchmark is to be reviewed over time.
Ms Plibersek said the speed dials show whether a particular hospital’s hand hygiene rates are lower than the benchmark, similar to the benchmark or higher than the benchmark.
“Of course, we want staff in all Australian hospitals to strive to keep their hands clean and infection under control 100% of the time.”
“But a rate lower than the national benchmark should act as a trigger for hospital managers to look at how other hospitals are doing better and focus on how they can improve their own policies and practices.”
In November the Medical Journal of Australia reported that the work of Hand Hygiene Australia in its first two years of implementing the NHHI had resulted in widespread improvement in hand hygiene rates among health care workers, for both public and private hospitals.
Correct procedure for WHO hand hygiene involves hand-washing or sterilization, at five critical moments: before touching a patient, before a procedure, after a procedure, after touching a patient and after touching a patient’s surroundings.
Hand hygiene rates for individual hospitals are calculated using data provided by auditors who observe how often hospital staff follow correct hand-washing procedure.
The MyHospitals (www.myhospitals.gov.au) website, launched in December 2010, provides Australians with important performance information about public hospitals and a growing number of private hospitals.
6 March 2012.