Preventing infections

Infection prevention and control is a high priority for us. We are committed to ensuring the highest standards are delivered throughout our DHB.

Waikato DHB's Infection Prevention and Control Committee approve the annual plan of work for infection prevention and control, and they also receive regular updates on any infections in the various facilities within the DHB such as Waikato Hospital,Thames Hospital, rural hospitals, Rhoda Read / Matariki continuing care facilities. 

View the Infection prevention and control annual report

Scroll down to find information about

  • the infection prevention and control team
  • how visitors can help
  • hand hygiene for patients, visitors and staff
  • keeping the hospital clean
  • healthcare-acquired infection types

The team

Our infection prevention and control team is a dedicated department and includes specialist infection control nurses, an infectious diseases consultant and a clinical microbiologist.
The team is supported by the director of Nursing and Midwifery and the assistant group manager for Quality and Patient Safety.
The team's work includes:

  • Acting as a source of specialist advice, advising and supporting doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers on best practice.
  • Daily review of patients with infection control related issues.
  • Managing outbreaks of infection.
  • Supporting the national patient safety campaign “Open for Better Care” including hand hygiene, surgical site infection improvement programme.
  • Delivering a programme of staff education.
  • Undertaking regular infection control related audits to measure compliance against standards.
  • Developing infection control policies in line with national guidance.
  • Advising on infection control issues relating to new buildings, refurbishment works and new clinical products.
  • Monitoring infection rates.

How visitors can help

If you are visiting friends and family while they are in hospital, please follow this advice to help us fight the spread of infections and keep our patients safe:

  • Please do not visit if you are unwell and in particular if you have diarrhoea or vomiting, or flu-like symptoms.

The stomach bugs that cause diarrhoea or vomiting such as norovirus are highly contagious, and can spread rapidly through schools, colleges and hospitals. Even if you feel well after a sickness bug, you could still be contagious, so it’s vital that you help us to look after your loved ones by holding off your visit until you have been symptom-free for 72 hours. Patients in hospital are particularly vulnerable to infection, so if you do visit and bring in a bug with you, you risk passing it on to them as well as others around them.

  • Please follow any instructions given by staff or on notices
  • Please clean your hands when entering and leaving ward
  • Please do not touch wounds, drips etc unless you have received advice from staff
  • Please do tell us if you see any cleaning problems so that we can take action.

Two things you may not know about norovirus:

  1. The virus is highly contagious and spreads rapidly anywhere that people are gathered, including schools, offices, hotels and hospitals.
  2. The virus is usually mild, and people generally recover within 2-3 days. However, it can have a much more serious effect on vulnerable hospital patients.

Hand hygiene for patients, visitors and staff

Cleaning your hands is the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to prevent bacteria (germs) being passed from person to person. A third of infections are preventable by handwashing.

Our hospital wards and clinical areas also have alcohol hand gel dispensers available for staff, carers and visitors.
We ask all visitors to use the alcohol hand gel when they enter and leave our hospital wards.

Who should clean their hands?

  • All staff, patients and visitors should clean their hands on a regular basis.
  • Staff can help protect you by washing their hands with soap and water or by cleaning them with the alcohol hand gel which should be used on physically clean hands before examining you or providing care.
  • If a member of staff needs to examine you, do not be afraid to ask if they have cleaned their hands - in fact we welcome the opportunity to be questioned as we will often share the correct techniques of how to wash your hands.


When should you wash your hands?

  • After visiting the toilet or using a commode
  • Before eating or handling food
  • If your hands are physically dirty
  • Before visiting a patient and again before leaving the ward
  • All staff must clean their hands if they have direct contact with you


Useful tips

  • Remove all jewellery before cleaning your hands (plain flat rings are ok) 
  • Keep nails short, as this will make it easier to clean your hands properly
  • If you have a wound dressing, stitches, drips or catheters try not to touch them unnecessarily 
  • If you find any hand cleaning supplies running low such as soap, hand gel or paper towels, please let a member of staff know so we can arrange for them to be replaced.

Keeping the hospital clean

  • Waikato DHB continually strives to achieve the highest consistent standards of cleanliness, ensuring a clean, safe environment for patients, visitors and staff.
  • The wards and patient rooms are cleaned on a daily basis. There is a system of routine cleaning, as well as enhanced cleaning procedures if there are concerns about particular infections being present.
  • The DHB uses a sophisticated microfibre cloth and mop cleaning system, which is designed to be used as a dry cloth or mop and is very effective at removing dust and dirt from surfaces. Please be assured that if a cleaner appears to be merely wiping down an area with a dry cloth, the area is still being cleaned properly.
  • There are times when liquid disinfectants are also used.
  • If you have any concerns about the cleanliness of the hospital or any of the DHB facilities, either as a visitor or patient, please do not hesitate to bring it to the attention of the staff.

 

Healthcare-acquired infection types

Norovirus

Norovirus is a highly infectious bug which causes sickness and diarrhoea.
The virus is highly infectious and easily spread from person to person in several ways, but particularly through contaminated hands, food or water.
Norovirus can affect anyone, and can close hospital wards, nursing homes and schools. If it gets into the hospital, it can have a huge impact on hospital activities as it spreads so quickly.
If Norovirus does affect hospital patients, it may be necessary to put in place visiting restrictions on affected wards.
The care of our patients is always at the heart of any decisions we make, and we would ask for your patience with the difficulties that an outbreak of norovirus in hospital causes.

General information about Norovirus in our Public Health section

MRSA

Some strains of Staphylococcus aureus are resistant to certain antibiotics, particularly meticillin and are known as MRSA (Meticillicin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).
For those people who are vulnerable because they are already unwell or have injuries or surgical wounds, the risk of developing an infection is higher.
This is why MRSA is taken seriously when people come into hospital.
Organisms such as ESBL usually spread from person to person by direct contact. 
The easiest way to stop the spread is by practising good hand hygiene

  • Patients with an MRSA infection will be treated in a side room, and will be allocated their own toilet. Staff will wear gowns and gloves when providing care. 
  • We encourage our patients and visitors to wash their hands regularly, particularly after going to the toilet or before eating food. 
  • Visitors should also make full use of the hand gel provided at the entrances to wards.
  • Hand hygiene standards are monitored regularly and we actively encourage our patients and visitors to ask staff if they have cleaned their hands.

General information about MRSA in our Public Health section

ESBL

Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase. Beta-Lactamase (ESBL) can cause infections in the urine, in wounds and in the bloodstream.  
For those people who are vulnerable because they are already unwell or have injuries or surgical wounds, the risk of developing an infection is higher.
This is why ESBL is taken seriously when people come into hospital.
Organisms such as ESBL usually spread from person to person by direct contact. 
The easiest way to stop the spread is by practising good hand hygiene

  • Patients will be treated in a side room, and will be allocated their own toilet. Staff will wear gowns and gloves when providing care. 
  • We encourage our patients and visitors to wash their hands regularly, particularly after going to the toilet or before eating food.
  • Visitors should also make full use of the hand gel provided at the entrances to wards.
  • Good hand hygiene by hospital staff is of prime importance to minimise infection.
  • Hand Hygiene standards are monitored regularly and we actively encourage our patients and visitors to ask staff if they have cleaned their hands.

General information about ESBL in our Public Health section

Clostridium Difficile

Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) is a bacteria that can multiply in large numbers if the normal balance of the gut is upset, for example when taking antibiotics. This allows the C. diff. to release toxins which irritate the lining of the bowel and can cause a range of symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, fever and nausea.
When C. diff. causes diarrhoea, spores are released which contaminate the surrounding environment. These spores can live on surfaces for a long time, and are easily picked up on other people's hands. Through hand to mouth contact, the C.diff can then be transferred to the stomach and bowel.

  • Patients with C. diff. are treated in a side room, and additional cleaning regimens put in place to kill the C. diff spores. Patients will be allocated their own toilet or commode and staff will wear gloves and aprons when undertaking certain procedures.
  • It is not necessary for visitors to wear gloves and aprons unless assisting with personal care, however it is essential that visitors gel their hands on entering a ward, and wash their hands with soap and water when leaving.
  • Treatment of C. diff. depends on how severe the diarrhoea is. Sometimes no treatment is needed, and the symptoms resolve of their own accord, particularly if the patient has completed the course of antibiotics and balance of the normal gut flora is restored.
  • Any antibiotics that are being taken will be stopped where possible, and a specific antibiotic which is effective in the treatment of C. diff may be prescribed.
  • Most people with C. diff make a full recovery.

 General information about Clostridium difficile in our Public Health section