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Infection prevention week – spread the word, not the germs!

It is International Infection Prevention Week (19 – 23 October) and Waikato DHB, like all district health boards, makes hand hygiene a priority.

The Health Quality & Safety Commission says better hand hygiene habits are now embedded in New Zealand hospitals. Compliance has risen from just 35 percent to 80 percent across all DHBs from 2009 to 2015 thanks to the introduction of the Hand Hygiene New Zealand Programme (HHNZ).

DHBs in New Zealand are now complying with the ‘5 moments of hand hygiene’ at least 80 percent of the time, says Dr Sally Roberts, clinical lead for the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s Infection Prevention and Control Programme.

“To comply with the ‘5 moments’ health workers must clean their hands before and after contact with a patient, before and after a procedure, and after contact with a patient’s surroundings.”

She says hand hygiene is the simplest, most effective way to prevent the spread of healthcare associated infections, making it a key patient safety issue within the health sector.

”Correct cleaning reduces the microorganisms on people’s hands, which in turn reduces the risk of infection spreading between patients and health care workers.”

The results of the Commission’s most recent auditing period in June this year for the Hand Hygiene New Zealand (HHNZ) Programme show compliance among DHBs has now reached the national target of 80 percent.

This number has risen drastically since 2009, when the programme began. Compliance in that first year was at 35 percent.

“Meeting this target is a great achievement, especially just before Infection Prevention Week. The week is a chance to focus on how we prevent infection and spread the word not the germs,” says Dr Roberts.

She says health care workers have become much more vigilant about hand hygiene since the programme began.

“Just as people automatically put on a seatbelt when they get into a car, better hand hygiene habits are now being embedded in New Zealand hospitals.”

Since 2011 the HHNZ programme has been supported and funded by the Commission, and has centred around the promotion and monitoring of hand hygiene practice according to the World Health Organisation’s 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene (WHO-5).

New Zealand has several other programmes helping to reduce the risk of infection in our hospitals.

They include the Target CLAB (central-line associated bloodstream) Zero initiative which has now concluded, and the ongoing Surgical Site Infection Improvement (SSII) Programme.

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