As a facility manager, you have a lot to deal with. You’re probably focusing on occupancy, budgets and the ACFI, having the right team of qualified staff, rostering and general day-to-day management, all while providing the best quality of care for your residents. As a result, infection prevention and control (IPC) may feel like a minor issue. Yet, getting an infection in your facility, or failing your next audit because of poor IPC, can be embarrassing. Bad media publicity and even resident fatalities may result. Therefore, an IPC audit is vital for maintaining the future of your facility.
What are infection prevention and control audits, and why are they important?
The Australian and New Zealand governments conduct audits that each aged care facility has to pass for accreditation. These can be scheduled regularly or may be conducted unannounced. A critical part of these audits is infection prevention and control. If you underperform in this area, your facility may fail the entire audit. By scheduling and performing independent IPC audits, you can prevent this from happening to your facility.
Health risks of not scheduling infection prevention and control audits
The first and most obvious reason why you should schedule an IPC is to facilitate a safe and infection-free facility for your residents, staff and visitors. If you fail to take the right precautionary measures, people may contract infections and even require hospital care. In the worst-case scenario, this may lead to fatalities.
The business case for scheduling audits
Fewer people are aware of the economic sense of scheduling IPCs. Depending on the number of beds in your facility, an audit costs between $2,500 – 3,500 AUD. This might sound like a lot of money to check if everything in your facility is in place, but it’s nothing compared to the costs of getting an infection outbreak in your facility.
Research shows that the cost of outbreaks ranges between $46,000 – 2.3 million Australian Dollars . That’s not where it ends. Among other things, outbreaks can also lead to excessive workload for staff, negative media publicity for your facility, sanctions, revoking of your facility accreditation and losing government funding. As published in the latest edition of Fusion (page 76), our research shows that the direct cost per week is $40,000 to 50,000 AUD and the average length of an outbreak is 10 to 14 days.
An example of sanctions and negative publicity for Australian aged care facilities (The Guardian, September 2019).
Bug Control can provide an onsite audit/review of your infection control programme. A strategic plan is then developed to assess your ongoing needs for infection control and the gaps identified. As part of our audit feedback process, we also provide education to key staff on the day. Our consultants can give you direct advice on the spot.
A considerable benefit of the onsite audits is to bring a fresh perspective into your facility. This independent oversight can better signal things you might miss because you see them every day. Our auditing staff know all the latest guideline requirements and how to ensure you are going to comply with all areas of infection control and pass your next government audit.
Mini audits (do it yourself)
Mini audits allow you to collect evidence of IPC activities yourself. Bug Control will provide support and assistance to set up this process. When undertaking the audits, documenting actions and photos can be used to ensure the quality process is completed. There is also a scheduling system, auto-reporting on actions and a comprehensive dashboard available for reporting. From the dashboard, you can get notifications of when audits are due to be completed and can use the information gathered to benchmark against other sites within your group. It will also notify you if audits or tasks have not been completed.
What type of audit is best for you?
The Mini audit process is identical to the one the Bug Control consultants use when they go into your facility. A benefit of doing it yourself is that it requires a smaller financial investment. However, please note it is a time-consuming task. To enable you to fit the work into your busy schedule, the audit workload is broken into multiple sections, which you can spread over time. For instance, you can schedule the kitchen section on Monday, the hand hygiene section on Tuesday and so forth.
Please note that in our experience, accreditation surveyors look favourably at onsite audits that are completed by independent reviewers.
Conclusions and next steps
If you haven’t planned any IPC audits, you are putting your aged care facility at risk.
The question should not be whether to schedule an audit, but whether or not you want to do it yourself. If you find this decision difficult, please make use of our free 20-minute consultation call.
Also, please note that flu season is here. Flu season is the time with the most infection outbreaks, so now is the time you want to be doing your audit.
In the audit, Bug Control will identify where the gaps are in your facility and what areas require focus. Therefore, audits should not be seen as a box that you can tick off, but more as a vital analysis to determine the right steps forward. Our audits come with recommendations and an actionable plan to ensure your facility complies with the Quality Standards and maintain accreditation.
 Navas et al. BMC Public Health (2015), Economic costs of outbreaks of acute viral gastroenteritis due to norovirus in Catalonia (Spain). Costs converted to current value with the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Inflation Calculator.