Health :: Alberta to focus on five main areas to strengthen infection prevention and control

To ensure consistent delivery of the highest quality of care possible throughout the province, the Alberta government will address five key areas identified in the report Provincial Review of Infection Prevention and Control.

The report summarizes the findings and analysis of self-reported information collected from the health authorities and the province?s health professional regulatory bodies concerning organization structures, planning, policies, human resources, education and training, quality improvement and surveillance and monitoring activities.

?When serious issues with infection control were first identified in Vegreville in March, I asked for a review of infection prevention policies and programs of all health authorities as well as the province?s health professional regulatory bodies,? said Dave Hancock, Minister of Health and Wellness. ?No threats to patient safety were identified. However, the variability in infection prevention and control policies and programs across the health regions and among regulatory bodies indicates that province-wide standards are required. I am directing my department, health care deliverers and the regulatory bodies to make changes to assure Albertans that consistent, quality health care is delivered throughout the province.?

The findings of the provincial review, together with those of the Health Quality Council of Alberta?s (HQCA) review of infection prevention and control issues in the East Central Health Region and St. Joseph?s General Hospital in Vegreville, are reflected in the government actions released today.

Five main directions for moving forward were identified:

Clarify accountability, roles and responsibilities in infection prevention and control;

Implement and monitor provincial standards for infection prevention and control;

Strengthen the health system?s capacity for infection prevention and control;

Ensure the availability of infection prevention and control education and training;

Enhance provincial co-ordination of infection prevention and control activities.

?Alberta has one health system delivered by nine health regions and the Alberta Cancer Board,? said Hancock. ?Work is required to ensure Alberta?s infection prevention and control programs are consistent across the system. We are committed to working with health authorities, the regulatory bodies and other partners to make system-wide improvements in infection prevention and control so that Albertans can expect consistent standards of quality and safety wherever they access health services.?

Alberta Health and Wellness had been working on a number of initiatives to improve infection prevention and control before sterilization and outbreak issues were identified in the Vegreville facility:

Developed a provincial infection prevention and control strategy – Government has since committed to developing, measuring and enforcing provincial infection prevention and control standards;

Committed $15 million for a public health security and safety capital upgrade initiative – the renovation and/or upgrade of existing health facilities, expanding regional capability and capacity to respond to known and unknown emergent public health issues and risks such as SARS, methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and pandemic influenza. This funding is part of a $350-million commitment by government to fix and maintain more than 100 schools, hospitals, post secondary facilities and government buildings across the province.

Introduced Bill 41, the Health Professions Statutes Amendment Act, 2007 to ensure that health professional regulatory bodies monitor and enforce consistent professional standards, including infection prevention and control standards;

In addition, amendments will be brought forward to the Hospitals Act, the Regional Health Authorities Act and the Nursing Homes Act to clarify the authority and accountability of the health authorities for the delivery and quality of health care services. These amendments will address the confusion identified by the Health Quality Council of Alberta about roles and responsibilities of the regional health authorities, voluntary organizations and other service providers.

Developed provincial guidelines for MRSA outbreak management and prevention in health care facilities, released today with the report of the Provincial Review of Infection Prevention and Control;

A hand hygiene strategy for health care workers and other service providers will be released this fall.

Alberta Health and Wellness will be establishing project plans and timelines to address the directions for moving forward identified in the Provincial Review of Infection Prevention and Control, and will be reporting back to Albertans as the initiatives are developed and implemented.

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