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Waikato topples hospital fall rates

Photo: Waikato nurse Michelle Doust uses the Invisa-Beam
Orange non-slip socks, sensor mats and Invisa-Beams are working to reduce falls at Waikato District Health Board (DHB).

The measures are part of a range of initiatives credited for reducing falls by 41 per cent at the DHB in the past four years.

The orange SafeFeet socks, equipped with grip, work to prevent the patient from falling while also acting to alert staff on the ward that the patient is at risk and shouldn’t be moving on their feet independently.

A monitoring system, the Invisa-Beam sets off an alarm when a patient gets out of bed while enabling nurses to identify the room in which the alarm is sounding.

The DHB also has signs in patient rooms to remind patients, family and nurses of high fall risks, along with ultra low beds that reduce fall height and impact, bed-side crash mats, long reach call bells, transfer belts for mobility and sensor mats on the patient’s bed or seat.

Waikato DHB’s annual quality report shows there were 327 falls with injury reported in 2013-14 with 17 resulting in serious injury.

Thirteen of those patients sustained a fracture, including six patients who sustained a fractured hip and seven received upper body fractures.

Falls prevention has been one of the DHB’s main patient safety priorities.

DHB service quality and patient safety coordinator Susan McHugh said while the falls prevention initiatives are not unique to the DHB, Waikato has been one of the first DHBs to implement all the current best practice, evidence-based interventions.

“The non-slip socks are used throughout the DHB as appropriate for patients who are mobilising and at high risk of falling,” she said.

Ms Hugh said the Invisa-Beams are used in several areas of the hospital, including the older person and rehabilitation wards and the Rhoda Read Hospital.

She said the DHB conducted its own clinical product trials as part of the DHB quality assurance process before implementing any falls prevention intervention.

“The Invisa-Beams were introduced in 2011 and are manufactured for both chair and bed situations. They can be portable or built into the electrics of the building.”

The 2013-14 quality report shows hand hygiene compliance improved to 71 per cent, slightly above the national target of 70 per cent, while there were 39 serious adverse events investigated.

The DHB’s priority areas for 2014-15 include continuing to keep patients safe during their care, reducing the number of people dying from preventable conditions, and continuing to improve care around deteriorating patients.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords