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Hospital cuts infection rate

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 08:27 16/08/2012
INFECTION
IN CONTROL: North Shore Hospital ICU consultant Ywain Lawrey, right, and charge nurse manager Liz Dalby use the central line pack and checklist that has ultimately saved lives.

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Rigid protocols introduced to North Shore Hospital have prompted a dramatic decrease in potentially lethal infections.

Since January not a single central line infection has occurred in the intensive care and high dependency units.

ICU consultant and clinical champion of the new protocols Ywain Lawrey says it is a win for patients and for the hospital.

Central lines are catheters inserted into large veins of critically ill patients to deliver life saving medicines.

"They are effectively a highway down to the heart," Dr Lawrey says.

If infected up to half of the patients will die.

"Everybody had kind of justified it, we thought it was just the price we paid and that it happened because we were caring for the hospital's sickest patients," Dr Lawrey says.

Up until 12 years ago there were only guidelines on how to reduce these buried in a 160-page tome that no-one read, Dr Lawrey says.

A critical care specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore led the initial move to form stricter protocols after the death of an 18-month-old girl to a central line infection.

A five-point checklist was then circulated to all of the hospitals in Michigan state before being adopted internationally.

In November the same checklist formed the basis of a national collaborative driven by the Health Quality and Safety Commission called Target CLAB Zero.

"When we saw the effect it had in the States these infections became something we could no longer accept," Dr Lawrey says.

Previously North Shore Hospital reported six or seven central line infections per year and had a rate of around seven for every 1000 days a patient was hooked up to a line.

That rate is now down to two per 1000 line days, Dr Lawrey says.

"The next step is to apply it more widely to the rest of the hospital," he says.

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