New Standards To Prevent Infections In Health Facilities

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Infections In Health Facilities

A new provincial infection prevention and control strategy with clear standards will strengthen Alberta's health system and make the province a national leader in patient safety.

"This strategy establishes a consistent approach to infection prevention and control across Alberta's nine health regions," said Dave Hancock, Minister of Health and Wellness. "Albertans can be assured that they are receiving high quality health care wherever they access services. Our new strategy will simply make a great health system even better."

The strategy identifies six key directions, with specific actions to prevent infections in health-care facilities and improve the quality of care. The directions include provincial standards and monitoring, province-wide surveillance, and public awareness and education.

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The government has developed standards for accountability, cleaning and sterilization of equipment, as well as the prevention and management of outbreaks of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The standards will come into effect for regional health authorities on Feb. 1, 2008.

"Last August, I promised that provincial standards for infection prevention and control would be established," added Hancock. "First among them is a clear standard for accountability and reporting. Regional health authorities will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the standards in all of their facilities. My department will monitor for compliance, perform periodic audits, and report back to Albertans. We will also work with the health professional regulatory bodies to ensure health professionals are conversant with these provincial standards."

The new Standards for Infection and Prevention Control (IPC) Accountability and Reporting outline requirements for every health authority to appoint a senior executive responsible for infection prevention and control, who reports to the CEO. As well, all regions must have an IPC Committee, with specific areas of expertise represented.

The provincial standards also strengthen the role of the regional Medical Officer of Health in monitoring infection prevention and control within the health region. If required, the Medical Officer of Health can direct the health region to address a concern, with the support of Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health. The need for clarity in the roles of these public health officers was a key finding of the Provincial Infection Prevention and Control Review and the Health Quality Council of Alberta's investigation into sterilization issues in East Central Health.

The strategy and standards were developed in response to findings of the Provincial Infection Prevention and Control Review, released in August 2007. A key component of the strategy is the Alberta Hand Hygiene Strategy, developed in consultation with regional public health and IPC specialists, representatives of the Community and Hospital Infection Control Association Canada, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, the federal First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada, and other stakeholders.

Adequate hand hygiene is the most effective means of reducing the spread of infection in the health-care setting, other service sectors and the community. As previously announced, $16 million will be invested in necessary infrastructure enhancements to support improved hand hygiene in health facilities over a two-year period. An additional $2.1 million will be invested to provide hand hygiene and IPC training and educational programs and materials to staff in supportive living facilities and seniors lodges, where 22,000 Alberta seniors reside.

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