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Med J Aust. 2009 Oct 19;191(S8):S18-24.

Improvements in hand hygiene across New South Wales public hospitals: clean hands save lives, part III.

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Hospital Infection Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia.



To describe improvements in hand hygiene compliance after a statewide hand hygiene campaign conducted in New South Wales public hospitals.


The campaign was conducted in all area health services in NSW (covering all 208 public hospitals). Alcohol-based hand rub (AHR) was introduced into all hospitals between March and June 2006. In each hospital, five overt observation surveys of hand hygiene compliance by health care workers (HCWs) were conducted: one pre-implementation survey and four post-implementation surveys (in August 2006, November 2006, February 2007 and July 2008).


Overtly observed hand hygiene compliance rates by HCWs, stratified by before- and after-patient contact, Fulkerson's contact risk categories, and four health care professional groupings.


The overall hand hygiene compliance rate improved from 47% before the intervention to an average of 61% over the last three observation periods (P < 0.001). All professional groups sustained improved compliance rates except medical staff, whose practices reverted to pre-intervention rates. Nursing staff maintained significantly improved compliance, with an average rate of 67% after the intervention. Overall hand hygiene compliance before patient contact improved from 39% (pre-campaign) to 52% (July 2008) (P < 0.001). Overall compliance after patient contact improved from 57% to 64% (P < 0.001) over the same period. Compliance associated with medium-risk contacts increased from an average of 51% in the first two observation periods to an average of 62% over the last three observation periods (P < 0.001). The corresponding compliance rates associated with low-risk contacts were 35% and 56%, respectively (P < 0.001).


An overall improvement in hand hygiene rates was achieved with the introduction of AHR. Increased adherence to before-patient contact compliance, especially by nursing staff, contributed to the progress made, but an acceptable overall level of hand hygiene practice is yet to be achieved. It is now time to focus on a long-term behavioural change program directed specifically at medical staff.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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