Needlestick and sharps injuries bid goes to parliament

Tuesday 25th June, 2013

The fight for legislation that would force every Australian hospital to introduce safety-engineered medical devices (SEMDs) in a bid to reduce Australia’s needlestick and sharps injuries has gone to Federal Parliament.

Western Australian MP Dr Mal Washer has introduced a Private Member’s Motion that proposes enforcing the use of SEMDs, which would bring Australia into line with laws on SEMDs in countries such as Canada, the United States and in parts of Europe.

18,000 Australian nurses and health care workers receive needlestick injuries every year

It comes as statistics show at least 18,000 Australian nurses and other health care workers receive sharps and needlestick injuries every year, risking infection with a potentially life-threatening bloodborne disease such as Hepatitis B or C or HIV/AIDS.

The Medical Technology Association of Australia recently released a report that found SEMDs can reduce injuries by more than 80 per cent, and when used in conjunction with training and guidelines SEMDs can reduce injuries by more than 90 per cent.

Safety-engineered medical devices can reduce injuries and save costs for Australian hospitals

It found implementing SEMDs in all Australian hospitals would result in an average cost saving of $18.6 million a year.

Australian Nursing Federation Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the solution to preventing needlestick injuries for nurses was a combination of legislation, the use of SEMDs, workplace risk assessments and ongoing education.

Ms Thomas said despite ANF estimates it would cost $50 million to equip Australia’s public hospitals with safe needle use education and safety equipment, there has only been limited progress in the use of safety devices throughout the nation’s hospitals.

The ANF also wants conventional needles to be replaced where possible with lock syringes or retractable syringes.

Growing nurse shortages makes it crucial nurses work in safe environment

“At a time of growing nurse shortages across Australia’s health and aged care systems, it is crucial that our current nursing professionals work in a safe environment, with appropriate measures undertaken to ensure their protection from the risk of preventable injury from needles and sharps,” Ms Thomas said.

“Unlike other western countries, like the US and Canada, Australia has no nationally mandated approach to the utilisation of safety devices to prevent needlestick injuries to nurses and other health care workers.”

The ANF and The Alliance for Sharps Safety and Needlestick Prevention in Healthcare have both welcomed Dr Washer’s Motion.