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11 Feb 2021

Monitoring infections in hospitals to improve patient outcomes

A centre at the Doherty Institute is providing vital information about infections in hospitals and other health facilities.

The VICNISS Coordinating Centre at the Doherty Institute provides an integrated system in Victoria for the monitoring, analysis and reporting of infections in public and private hospitals on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

“We’ve seen diminishing rates of infections in public hospitals just by virtue of capturing and monitoring data,” says Associate Professor Leon Worth, the Acting Director of VICNISS.

“For example, some surgical site infections have reduced by approximately 10 per cent per year since the program commenced.

“Coordinated surveillance is necessary to support prevention activities and to reduce the burden of illness to improve patient outcomes.”

In 2018, the Health Act passed that private hospitals were now required to participate in surveillance provided by the VICNISS program.

“The driver was to ensure private hospitals were documenting monitoring activities in a comparable manner to hospitals in the public sector,” says Associate Professor Worth.

The system is expanding further with more than 180 of Victoria’s public residential aged care facilities also joining the pilot program in 2018 to monitor and report infection rates.

“It’s been recognised for a very long time that infections may arise in aged care facilities, which could have implications for hospitals when residents are transferred back and forth.”

One of the components of the aged care program is monitoring seasonal influenza vaccination rates of aged care staff.

“We’re seeing very high uptake. In excess of 80 or 90 per cent in some of the larger facilities for both staff and residents. This is an important way that risks for influenza infection can be reduced in this highly vulnerable population.”

There’s also an emphasis on collecting data on antimicrobial resistant organisms such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriacaea (CPE) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE).

VICNISS is now advocating for specific surveillance programs to be implemented into sub-acute and rehabilitation facilities.

“We require an integrated approach to understand infection burden in all sectors, as patients may be transferred from acute to sub-acute care, and from hospitals to aged care settings,” says Associate Professor Worth. “These transfers may increase the risk of acquiring infections, and therefore become a focus when infection containment and prevention strategies are necessary.”

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