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Infection Control Standards Part Of Wider Push

Infection Control Standards Part Of Wider Quality Push

New national standards for infection control are part of the Government's wider programme to improve the quality of health services, Associate Health Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

Ms Dyson launched the Infection Control Standard in Christchurch at the annual conference of the National Division of Infection Control Nurses this afternoon. She said infection control was a key aspect of patient safety, and staff had been calling for officially recognised standards for some years.

"Unfortunately, quality was put on the back burner during the market-driven health policies of the 1990s. It was left to health providers to determine what infection control services they would provide, and the quality of those services.

"The result of this negligence has been a number of high-profile health system failures around the country. These include outbreaks of MRSA in hospitals, problems with endoscopes not being cleaned properly, and the re-use of syringes and other disposable medical products."

Ms Dyson said that five years ago the ESR Health Communicable Disease Centre was calling for improvements in guidelines on the control of MRSA and for model procedures to be developed for hospital-acquired infections.

"It is hard to understand why it has taken so long for the call to be heeded. The Infection Control Standard not only covers those issues, but also the abuse of antibiotics and other agents which has led in recent years to the emergence of some of the so-called 'superbugs'".

Ms Dyson said the Infection Control Standard complemented the generic standards which underpin the Health and Disability Safety Bill currently before Parliament. When the bill becomes law, all facilities which are licensed and registered by the Ministry of Health will have to meet these standards.

"The generic safety standards will provide a new framework to further develop specific quality programmes. We aim to put quality issues back where they belong so that future decision making is more balanced, giving quality concerns at least the same status as financial ones."

Ms Dyson said other initiatives in the government's programme for improving the quality of health services included:
 developing and reviewing other specific health standards in areas such as telenursing practice, restraint minimisation and safe practice, breast screening and mental health;
 exploring with clinicians the best ways to design and implement quality processes at the clinical team level;
 initiating a health workforce planning programme to address staff and skills shortages, in consultation with health professionals; and
 developing nursing specifications to identify nursing needs at the clinical unit level.

"There are no quick fix solutions to problems which have developed over the last nine years. But we are determined and confident that, with the help of clinicians, we will achieve the quality health service that everyone is calling for," Ms Dyson said.

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