The vast majority of hospitals are beating the government target for deadly golden staph infections in patients’ blood, according to a new report.
Going to hospital has become safer over the past few years, thanks to a declining rate of dangerous bacterial infections.
The latest National Health Reporting Authority (NHPA) report shows the vast majority of hospitals are beating the government target for deadly Staphylococcus aureus infections commonly known as golden staph.
This indicates most doctors and nurses are taking hygiene seriously, particularly when washing hands and using drips and catheters.
The report ranks hospitals according to the proportion of their patients whose blood became infected with the bacterium after admission.
It gives hospitals a way to see how they compare with their peers, says NHPA CEO Dr Diane Watson.
Every case is potentially preventable.
Although the bug is commonly found on the skin of healthy people, it is dangerous if it gets into the blood, with 20 to 35 per cent of cases ending in death.
There is particular concern about antibiotic-resistant strains.
The report allocates hospitals into four peer groups based on their size and proportion of vulnerable patients.
There were 1724 infections at public hospitals in 2012/13, with more than 80 per cent occurring at the biggest institutions, referred to as major hospitals in the report.
Those with a higher proportion of vulnerable patients accounted for 1020 infections, down from 1170 in 2010/11.
The best performing hospital in this peer group was the Prince Charles in Queensland. The worst was the Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospital.
However, all 36 in the group beat the national target of no more than two infections per 10,000 patient bed days.
The report showed a problem at some hospitals, described as large in the report.
Among those with more vulnerable patients, Calvary Mater in Newcastle recorded 3.14 cases per 10,000 patient bed days and Peter MacCallum in Victoria recorded 2.71.
Victorian Eye & Ear, Auburn in NSW and Geraldton in WA reported zero cases.
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia welcomed the report.
It shows what’s possible and indicates where there is room for improvement, said spokesperson Mark Metherell.
Things are starting to improve, said Professor John Turnidge, leader of the national surveillance program for antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic use.
We have very few hospitals performing below the benchmark.
The next step is to work out what the best hospitals are doing, he says.
The results for 132 private and 586 public hospitals are available on the myhospitals website.