Infection prevention and control is one of the central aspects of healthcare delivery and is critical for managing patient safety risk in a hospital setting. Such concepts as proper hand washing and cleaning of medical devices appear basic, yet they are fundamental for preventing the spread of infections. The increasing proliferation of microorganisms resistant to antibiotic medications is a threat to the health of Albertans. Infection prevention and control (IPC) has an important role to play in managing this threat.
What we examined
Our audit had two objectives:
What we found
There has been a stronger focus on IPC at hospitals over the last several years and AHS, with the department’s support, has introduced important provincial IPC systems that fill critical gaps in all three areas we selected for our audit.
During our hospital visits we did not observe instances where there was an immediate and significant risk to patient safety. Although there have been many improvements in hospital IPC during recent years, we found weaknesses in management systems to ensure implementation of the provincial IPC strategy and the hand hygiene strategy, as well as weaknesses in AHS systems to manage IPC risk within hospitals.
The main theme of our three recommendations to AHS is the following:
What needs to be done
We made one recommendation to the Department of Health and three to Alberta Health Services.
Recommendation 1: Oversight and accountability for infection prevention and control
We recommend that the Department of Health:
Recommendation 2: Cleaning, disinfection and sterilization of medical devices
We recommend that Alberta Health Services establish clear oversight and accountability for medical device reprocessing within and across zones to ensure consistent processes and accountability for reprocessing activities in Alberta.
Recommendation 3: Prevention and control of antibiotic-resistant organisms
We recommend that Alberta Health Services improve its systems to manage risk posed by antibiotic-resistant organisms at hospitals by:
Recommendation 4: Hand hygiene practices
We recommend that Alberta Health Services improve its systems for hand hygiene by:
Why this is important to Albertans
Healthcare-acquired infections affect hospital patients and often lead to serious complications. Infections acquired while in a hospital have more significant negative outcomes than infections acquired in the community, result in longer hospitalizations and represent an added cost to the healthcare system. Many healthcare-associated infections are preventable.