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Public hospitals struggling with 'superbugs'

22 September 2011 - 3:18pm

A report by the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) may have strengthened the case for private health insurance, after it revealed that a number of infection-causing superbugs are creating problems in the public hospital sector.

Such cases involved the highly dangerous bacteria golden staph - including some strains resistant to antibiotics.

The SMH reports: "The Herald's analysis of 15 months of data shows despite favourable figures averaged across the state there are still serious outbreaks of infection in individual public hospitals."

Data released via the Freedom of Information Act showed that a number of hospitals were not meeting national infection benchmarks, designed to help manage risk levels.

These standards stipulate that no more than two instances of golden staph infections should occur for every 10,000 days that hospital beds are occupied.

Proper hygiene practices, including washing and drying of hands as well as alcohol rubs, can assist in preventing such bacteria from spreading.

Concerns remain for the 1.5 million inpatients treated each year in the public health system - however a spokesperson for the Health Department has told the SMH that infection rates were consistent with the international rate.

A 2010 study of the benefits of the private health sector by the Australian Private Hospitals Association found that infection rates were generally lower when compared to public hospitals.

Private cover policyholders may take comfort in the report, which stated: "Where the available data allowed analyses and comparisons between sectors, private hospitals consistently outperformed public hospitals."