Maintaining hospital hygiene practice is an essential component of the drive to reduce hospital associated infections. Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs) continue to be a challenge for healthcare systems worldwide. Ireland is not unique in this regard and tackling HCAIs here continues to be a priority for the government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE). A National Infection Control Action Plan, launched in 2007, aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infection by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. The number of MRSA bloodstream infections for the past four years fell from 592 cases in 2006, 536 cases in 2007, 435 cases in 2008 to 355 cases in 2009. This shows a decrease in such infections of over 40% between 2006 and 2009.
Data on alcohol hand rub consumption which is an important part of the hygiene effort shows a 30% increase since 2007. The Guidelines for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Ireland aims to promote the sensible prescribing of antibiotics. Data on antibiotic consumption collected by the HPSC shows a welcome decrease in antibiotic consumption in 2008 for the first time since 2000. This decrease has continued in 2009.
The Health Information and Quality Authority published its National Standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections in May 2009. It is intended that inspection of public acute hospitals using these Standards will commence during this year; the Standards will also be applied to primary care settings as appropriate. In addition to the above mentioned developments, the HSE published new Environmental Building Guidelines in December 2008 to inform infection control policy in all new builds and refurbishments. I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of Health Care Associated Infections, including MRSA and to treat them promptly when they occur.