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World Hand Hygiene Day: Clean hands save lives

Hon Jo Goodhew
Associate Minister of Health

3 May 2013

World Hand Hygiene Day: Clean hands save lives

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew says World Hand Hygiene Day on 5 May is an important reminder of the vital role hand hygiene plays in preventing harm to patients.

“Clean hands save lives – it’s as simple as that,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“Cleaning their hands at the right times while caring for a patient is the single most important thing health care professionals can do to prevent a patient from developing a healthcare associated infection.”

Healthcare associated infections can lead to longer hospital stays, long-term disabilities, extra time off work, greater expense and, occasionally, death. They also cause considerable distress for patients and their families.

To combat this, New Zealand has in place rigorous standards for hand hygiene based on World Health Organization recommendations.

“All 20 district health boards in New Zealand are taking part in a national hand hygiene improvement programme,” Mrs Goodhew says.

“This is having an impact, with hand hygiene rates in hospitals improving and infection rates falling.”

For example, Auckland DHB’s work on hand hygiene has included appointing a dedicated hand hygiene coordinator, reviewing its staff education materials, and giving each area feedback on things to improve.

In Waitemata DHB, alcohol hand gel is provided at hospital main entrances, ward entrances and room entrances, and at the ends of patients’ beds. A hand hygiene transparency report grades wards on the success of their hand hygiene improvements.

“The work has paid off – both Auckland and Waitemata DHBs have seen staff increase their hand hygiene compliance by 11 per cent in the past year,” Mrs Goodhew says.

As part of the national programme, DHBs now collect and report hand hygiene compliance data and Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia information to a national database three times a year.

“During the last four months the national hand hygiene compliance rate increased by over four percentage points and initial data suggests rates of Staphylococcus aureus infections reported by DHBs are beginning to trend downward,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“We know health care workers want to provide the safest care possible for their patients. The challenge now is to build on this recent progress and continue to increase good hand hygiene practice.”

Further information on the national hand hygiene programme can be found at http://handhygiene.org.nz.

ENDS

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