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Gelling together keeps bugs at bay at Newborn Intensive Care Unit

Waikato Hospital’s New Born Intensive Care Unit (NICU) leaves no room for bugs to enter their ward. Looking at vulnerable babies through a window is history – the hands-on approach has made the practise of hand hygiene the number one priority for all.

Doctor Robert Cortesi summarises how helpless young babies are – “the result can be catastrophic, rather than just getting a little sick.”

NICU charge nurse manager Christine Woolerton states that hand hygiene is part of the unit’s culture – “hand hygiene is engrained in everything we do.”

“Hand hygiene saves lives. Sepsis kills babies, bugs kill babies. They’re very fragile and hand hygiene saves their lives.”

Waikato District Health Board has recently introduced a new staff award that recognises where a patient safety initiative has been identified, implemented, and demonstrated ongoing success and sustainability.

Waikato Hospital’s NICU and Thames Hospital’s Chemotherapy Unit are the joint winners of the first Sustaining Excellence in Patient Safety Award. They both won the award for impeccable hand hygiene.

The awards were presented on 18 February at the Waikato DHB Board of Clinical Governance meeting.

Christine believes their success comes down to having a team who is completely dedicated to hand hygiene.

“We’ve always had that high standard; we’ve always been at the top of the hospital for hygiene.

“There are 18 gel containers within reach in one nursery; there is no excuse for not using it,” comments Christine.

NICU staff constantly think of creative ways to remind each other about the hand hygiene standards they need to meet, creating fun coloured laminated messages and sticking them everywhere is just one example.

“We [staff] are all extremely conscious of what we are doing because we are caring for babies – other people’s babies.”

Another important rule NICU enforces is “bare below the elbows, no jewellery allowed.”

With two staff members auditing the floor, and five or six champions for infection control in the unit, forgetting to gel your hands is a big no-no.



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