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Hospital Performance: Healthcare-associated Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections in 2013–14, In Focus

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This report presents rates of healthcare-associated bloodstream infections in Australia’s biggest public hospitals caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus.

Although commonly found on the skin of healthy people, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) can cause serious illness if it gets into the bloodstream. Evidence suggests 20% to 35% of people with this sort of infection die from it or a related cause.1–4 S. aureus bloodstream infections contracted while in hospital are considered potentially preventable and hospitals aim to have as few of these infections as possible.

In 2013–14, there were 1,621 cases of healthcare-associated S. aureus reported as being acquired while receiving care in a public hospital - around 100, nearly 6%, fewer cases than in 2012–13. Since 2012–13, there were 44 fewer cases in major hospitals with more vulnerable patients, 44 fewer cases in major hospitals with fewer vulnerable patients and 17 fewer cases in large hospitals with fewer vulnerable patients. The number of cases increased by 10 in large hospitals with more vulnerable patients.

The report highlights variation in infection rates across major and large hospitals. Among major hospitals with more vulnerable patients the rate of infection varied more than three-fold. At major hospitals with fewer vulnerable patients the rates showed a similar level of variation.

Number of reported cases of healthcare-associated Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections, by peer group, 2011–2014

Peer Group Number of reported cases
2011–12 2012–13 2013–14
Large, fewer vulnerable patients 43 68 51
Large, more vulnerable patients 74 77 87
Major, fewer vulnerable patients 381 382 338
Major, more vulnerable patients 1048 1016 972
Sources and references can be found in the Technical Note
Collignon PJ, Wilkinson IJ, et al. Health care-associated Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections: a clinical quality indicator for all hospitals. Med J Aust 2006;184(8):404–406.
Turnidge JD, Kotsanas D, et al. Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia: a major cause of mortality in Australia and New Zealand. Med J Aust 2009;191(7):368–373.
Van Hal SJ, Jensen SO, et al. Predictors of mortality in Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia. Clin Microbiol Rev 2012;25(2):362–386
Cosgrove SE, Sakoulas G, et al. Comparison of mortality associated with methicillin-resistant and methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia: A meta-analysis. Clin Infect Dis 2003;36:53–59.
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