Healthcare associated infections

Healthcare associated infections (HAI) are infections that are acquired as a direct or indirect result of healthcare. HAI is one of the most common complications affecting patients in hospital. As well as causing unnecessary pain and suffering for patients and their families, HAI can prolong a patient’s hospital stay and add considerably to the cost of delivering healthcare.

It is possible to reduce the incidence of HAIs through adherence to established infection prevention and control practices.

The SA Health Infection Control Service (ICS) coordinates the SA Health HAI surveillance program to monitor the occurrence of specific HAIs and provides state guidelines, tools and resource materials to assist health service providers with HAI prevention for healthcare professionals and consumers.

National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards

The prevention of HAI is a high priority patient safety issue. The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standard: Prevention and Control Infection Standard intention is to reduce the risk to patients, consumers and members of the workforce of acquiring preventable infections. Implementation of the Standards is mandated in all hospitals, day procedure services and public dental services across Australia.

Health service providers are to ensure the implementation of ACSQHC resources and guides (including Accreditation Guides) as part of achieving compliance with the mandatory NSQHS Standards.

The ICS has developed an audit toolkit (PDF 238KB) aimed to provide additional exemplar audit tools which may be of additional assistance to healthcare facilities.

The SA Health HAI Prevention Policy Directive (PDF 422KB) ensures systems are in place to minimise the transmission of infectious diseases and the impact of HAI on patients and the healthcare system.

Clinical governance and quality systems 

Clinical governance and quality improvement systems must be in place to support and promote prevention and control of healthcare-associated infection, improve antimicrobial stewardship and support sustainable use of infection prevention and control resources, these include:

The Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare outlines core components of an infection prevention and control program.

Infection prevention and control systems

Strategies for the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections include development, implementation and maintenance of:

Managing patients with infection or colonisation

Patients presenting with, or acquiring, an infection or colonisation with a multidrug-resistant organism, Clostridioides difficile, Candida auris or other transmissible infection during their care are identified promptly and receive the necessary management and treatment.

This includes:

Reprocessing of reusable equipment and devices

Reprocessing of reusable equipment and medical devices must meet current best practice and is consistent with recurrent national standards.  Health service organisation must minimise infection risks to patients and the workforce by ensuring adequate identification of, and procedures for reprocessing, reusable medical equipment.

Antimicrobial stewardship

Implementation of systems for the safe and appropriate antimicrobial prescribing and use, this includes

Communicating with patients and carers

Information on healthcare associated infections should be provided to patients, carers, consumers and service providers.

Further information

For further information on the prevention of healthcare associated infection contact SA Health's Infection Control Service on (08) 7425 7161.