An effective infection prevention monitoring system needs to be implemented nationally to reduce the number of infections in aged care facilities, new research finds.

The research published in the Australian Health Review aimed to identify the current processes for monitoring infections in residential aged care facilities.

A survey of 164 aged care facilities in Victoria was conducted in 2016 to examine infection prevention programs and monitoring activities among providers in the public sector.

Surveillance activities found among the providers surveyed included monitoring infections and antimicrobial use (90 per cent), having a compulsory influenza vaccination compliance for staff (96 per cent) and residents (76 per cent) and monitoring of infections caused  by significant organisms (84 per cent).

The development of eight infection quality indicators were also implemented state-wide:

  • resident uptake of annual influenza vaccination
  • resident uptake of herpes zoster vaccination
  • resident uptake of pneumococcal vaccination
  • staff uptake of annual influenza vaccination
  • monitoring for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections
  • monitoring for Vacomycin-resistant Enterococcus infections
  • monitoring for Clostridium difficile infections

The report recommends that quality indicators should be recognised at a national level to improve infection prevention in aged care facilities.

More knowledge will help control spread of infections

Lead researcher and Victorian Healthcare Associated Infection Surveillance System Coordinating Centre senior infection control consultant Noleen Bennett said greater knowledge of infections is required.

“Understanding how an infection is transmitted will assist in knowing what strategies need to be in place to prevent and control infections,” Ms Bennett told Australian Ageing Agenda.

She said some infections are easily transmitted.

“In any outbreak situation you’re trying to minimise the number of residents affected. Residents, staff and visitors, infections can be passed onto anybody,” she said.

Providers that offer single bedrooms to their residents can reduce the spread of infections around the facility, she said.

“If there’s single bedrooms, it’s easier to prevent infections, but that’s not to say we lock them up in their rooms,” Ms Bennett said.

Setting up areas where those that have been identified as infected can congregate, and separating those who are not infected are among prevention strategies used by aged care providers she said.

Ms Bennett said most fundamental way to prevent infections is through adequate hand hygiene.

“What is unique to an aged care setting as opposed to a hospital is also we need to be teaching the residents to wash their hands regularly if possible, or promoting it and supporting them,” Ms Bennett said.

Effective infection prevention monitoring strategies is important due to the ageing population having greater vulnerabilities.

“Our residents are particularly vulnerable. Where the younger population might overcome infections easily however, for our residents, we must be mindful that the risk of morbidity and mortality is higher,” she said.

Access the study, Infection prevention quality indicators in aged care: ready for a national approach here.

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