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New RAH hit by surgery infections spike

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EXCLUSIVE: An unexplained spike in infections from hip and knee surgery at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital has caused more than two dozen procedures to be cancelled as SA Health scrambles to identify the cause.

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InDaily can reveal that SA Health has cancelled 27 elective hip and knee replacement surgeries at the new hospital in recent weeks after an audit showed an infection rate above the acceptable range.

Hospital management has placed a freeze on the procedures while it investigates why four patients suffered infections following hip or knee replacement surgery there.

The department did not respond to questions about whether instrument sterilisation processes at the hospital were among the possible causes.

However, a spokesperson said the Central Adelaide Local Health Network was “looking into” what might have caused the infections.

Australian Medical Association SA President Dr William Tam told InDaily an audit has shown a 3.45 per cent infection rate among patients who had had the procedures, well-above the normal accepted limit of one per cent.

“We’re looking at all aspects of the process to work out why these infections have occurred,” Tam said, stressing that there was no evidence of an infection affecting other areas of the hospital.

“It may be related to the technical suites (operating theatres) or due to any aspect of procedural practice.

“The reason we do the audits is things like this.”

SA Health describes the hip and knee surgery cancellations as its response to a “minor increase in the infection rate” compared with the infection rate at the old RAH, which the department did not disclose.

The four patients who suffered infections were among a total of 116 who have undergone hip or knee surgery at the new RAH since it opened in September last year.

SA Health is in the process of rescheduling the surgeries, which are deemed “non-urgent”, with some expected to be undertaken at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital instead of the RAH.

The department spokesperson said the cancellations were “to ensure [that] maximum infection prevention and control requirements are met”.

“Work is underway to reschedule the surgeries as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.

“Emergency and urgent surgery is continuing as normal and all other elective surgery, including other orthopaedic procedures, are expected to go ahead as planned.”

InDaily understands that no individual surgical theatre has been taken out of use.

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