Austria provides strong backing for Commissioner-designate Stella Kyriakides and her plans to combat antimicrobial resistance.

UM – 10/2019

This year’s European Health Forum Gastein came to an end on 3 October with a call to politicians for a strong commitment to the safety of patients in the European Union (see summary article). It is estimated that there are 8.8 million cases of healthcare-associated infections (infections acquired in hospital) in the EU. Fighting these also means curbing the development of antimicrobial resistance. This requires collecting and analysing data and improving surveillance of the infection.

Systematically monitoring the incidence of infection

The message from Austria is that there is great potential for a patient safety culture from monitoring the occurrence of infections. The EU’s role is to ensure a European-wide network and that relevant data is shared. According to Andrea Ammon, physician and Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the next challenge is to establish a standardised surveillance procedure in over 8,000 European acute care hospitals.

Safety culture is a question of attitude

Neda Milevska of the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IPA) said that a large proportion of healthcare-associated infections can be prevented with simple and effective measures, as long as there is a political commitment to do so. The other side called for a safety culture that starts with top management of health organisations and flows through all organisational levels.

Investing in hygiene means preventing infections

This discussion is also taking place in Germany. Last year, the German Coalition for Patient Safety (APS), an independent, non-profit association, published a comprehensive white paper (German only) calling for a new way of thinking about and improving safety in health care. The annual report of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds also provides regular information on the implementation of the hygiene promotion programme which is providing almost €500 million in funding to increase the number of hygiene staff in German hospitals.