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Hospital Performance: Healthcare-associated Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections in 2011–12

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Media release, November 2013
EMBARGOED TO 1AM, THURSDAY 23 MAY 2013

Preventable bloodstream infections highest at major hospitals

Australia’s biggest public hospitals account for a disproportionate share of reported bloodstream infections caused by the potentially deadly bacteria Staphylococcus aureus that patients sometimes develop while receiving hospital care.

The latest National Health Performance Authority report shows that of the 1,725 cases of S. aureus, or “Golden Staph”, bloodstream infections across 352 public hospitals, 82% were at major hospitals. However, these hospitals only accounted for 64% of monitored patient bed days.

The report, Hospital Performance: Healthcare-associated Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections in 2011–12, also highlights variations in infection rates between similar hospitals and suggests there may be differences in hospital reporting methods and possible under-reporting.

Among major hospitals with more at-risk patients, the rate of healthcare-associated S. aureus bloodstream infections was four times higher in some hospitals than others. In the other group of major hospitals, those with fewer at-risk patients, the rate of infection was more than 15 times higher in some hospitals than others:

  • Major hospitals with many at-risk patients accounted for 60% (1,046 cases) of the healthcare-associated S. aureus bloodstream infections reported nationally, and 41% of patient bed days monitored. The report shows a range among these hospitals from 0.47 to 2.15 cases per 10,000 patient bed days.
  • Major hospitals with fewer at-risk patients accounted for 22% (381 cases) of the healthcare-associated S. aureus bloodstream infections reported nationally, and 23% of patient bed days monitored. The report shows ranges from 0.17 to 2.59 cases per 10,000 patient bed days.

Performance Authority CEO Dr Diane Watson said the number of S. aureus bloodstream infections was small compared to the number of patients that pass through public hospitals each year. However, it remains a serious infection that patients can develop from their hospital treatment.

“Every case of healthcare-associated S. aureus bloodstream infection is considered potentially preventable and there are large differences in infection rates across similar hospitals,” Dr Watson said.

“The most serious of these bloodstream infections can prove fatal.”

The report splits hospitals into eight peer groups to allow fairer comparisons of healthcare associated S. aureus bloodstream infection rates. Direct comparisons between all hospitals may not be fair as some hospitals deal with large numbers of patients most at risk of these infections.

The rate of S. aureus bloodstream infections is one of the 48 indicators agreed by the Council of Australian Governments to guide the Authority’s work. The National Healthcare Agreement signed in 2011 sets a target for no more than 2.0 cases of healthcare-associated S. aureus bloodstream infection per 10,000 patient bed days for each state and territory. This report measures the baseline from which future performance will be assessed.

The National Health Performance Authority was established under the National Health Reform Act 2011 as an independent agency that reports regularly on the comparable performance of health care organisations.

To coincide with the report’s release, the Performance Authority has also updated information on the MyHospitals website on healthcare-associated S. aureus bloodstream infection rates at more than 600 public and private hospitals. This information can be viewed at www.myhospitals.gov.au

Download Media release (PDF, 144.3 KB)