64.1 per cent of the time health care workers were seen cleaning their hands before contact with patients or their areas. 81 per cent of the time, they were seen cleaning their hands after such contact. New public reporting on patient safety indicators posted online beginning today, May 29, will lead to better patient care. Nova Scotians can learn how often health care workers are seen cleaning their hands and how often patients get ill from the hospital-acquired infection C. difficile, by looking at the department’s website. “Patient safety is very important to me, and health care-associated infections are very concerning to all of us. Cleaning our hands is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infection,” said Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson. The province passed the Patient Safety Act a year ago to increase transparency and accountability in the health care system. “This is our first reporting period for these rates and it sets the stage for better health care,” said Mr. Wilson at the launch held at the South Shore Regional Hospital. District health authorities and the IWK Health Centre must report hand hygiene and infections from C. difficile to the department and the public on a regular basis. This is the first time the information is being collected in the same way across the province, allowing provincial rates to be calculated and benchmarks set for improvements. C. difficile is a bacteria that can live in the bowel without causing harm, or can cause an infection, such as diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. The provincial C. difficile rate for Jan. 1 to March 31 was 3.17, half the national benchmark of 6.25. The rate means that for every 10,000 patient days, there were 3.17 new hospital-acquired cases. The provincial hand hygiene rates for the same period are: Health care workers can clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub or sanitizer. “Hand-hygiene adherence is an early warning signal for patient safety and quality of care,” said Dr. Peter Vaughan, president, CEO, and medical director, South Shore Health and chair of the Nova Scotia Quality and Patient Safety Advisory Committee. “It’s an ongoing challenge for health care organizations here and around the world. Adherence rates globally average between 40 to 50 per cent. “Public reporting is one of many strategies we can use to improve hand hygiene. By monitoring rates over time, we can track improvements and develop strategies to address any areas of concern.” Developing a provincial program to track and monitor key infection rates and other patient safety indicators addresses increasing public interest and a recommendation from the auditor general. Nova Scotia is the second province in Canada to require patient care indicators be reported publicly. Ontario introduced similar legislation in 2008. Nova Scotians can learn more about the rates at http://novascotia.ca/dhw/qps/.