Coffs Harbour Base Hospital midwife Debbie McEwan washes her hands between attending to patients.
Coffs Harbour Base Hospital midwife Debbie McEwan washes her hands between attending to patients.

Campus targets infection

COFFS Harbour Base Hospital has been named as one of the worst in the state for hospital-acquired infections.

But acting general manager of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus Dr Theresa Beswick said because Coffs Harbour was not a large metro hospital, there was some variability caused by the nature of the patients being treated during any particular statistical quarter, like people with diabetes or vascular diseases.

Coffs Harbour’s public hospital has been ranked equal fourth on a list of NSW hospitals with above-benchmark levels of preventable staphylococcus aureus blood stream infections acquired in hospital.

The hospital recorded 2.3 infections per 10,000 bed days, behind the state’s worst performing hospital, Lismore Base Hospital, with 3.4; Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on 2.7, Concord Hospital on 2.5 and equal to Blacktown Hospital also on 2.3.

The benchmark for bloodstream infections in hospitals is 2.0 per 10,000 bed days.

Following an outbreak of Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci (VRE) at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital in 2008, the hospital management made a concerted effort to improve hospital hygiene and last year achieved a good report card.

Doctors have been alarmed by the death rate in NSW hospitals due to poor hygiene because a quarter of those who acquire a staphylococcus aureus infection in hospital will die as a result.

The problem occurs when staphylococcus aureus is transferred to people with chronic diseases, generally by hand contact.

Dr Beswick said its prevalence in the community was also a function of the level of chronic disease and antibiotic prescribing.

“We are actively engaged in the promotion of hand hygiene,” Dr Beswick said.

“We also monitor the existence of multi-resistant acquired infections, try to manage the prescribing of antibiotics through systems of approval, and we engage specialists and microbiolo- gists from Sydney and Newcastle for patients with complex conditions.”

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