31st May 2016

Questions without notice.


The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:56): My question is directed to the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Multiculturalism, representing the Minister for Health. My first question to the Minister is: With the Government’s current focus on biosecurity, what investigations have been undertaken to satisfy public health authorities that there will not be any further cases of antibiotic resistance in the general public similar to the Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus [VRE] of the early 2000s? Secondly, given that there were no health department investigations into the VRE cases at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle and given the ongoing use of antibiotic-type substances such as coccidiostats in intensive farming of animals, will the Minister establish an inquiry into this use of antibiotic-type substances and the potential impacts on human health?

The Hon. Duncan Gay: Point of order: I seek clarification on how many questions a member can ask within a question. My understanding is that a member can ask only a single question rather than two entirely different questions, although from a similar background. The honourable member said, “My first question” and then went on to detail his second question. I am asking whether that is appropriate under the standing orders.

The PRESIDENT: Order! While, in fact, the standing order does refer to the asking of each question, the ruling that has generally been made by previous Presidents is that while there may be only one question, that does not necessarily restrict the question to one subject. The understanding would be that generally the subjects would be related so that the question does not become impossible for a Minister to answer in the limited time available. The member had concluded his question. I will allow the question. However, I remind members seeking answers to questions that Ministers have only four minutes in which to respond. The Minister has the call.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA (Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Multiculturalism) (16:59): I thank the member for his question. It is clearly a detailed question, or questions. I will refer it to the Minister for Health and seek a detailed answer.

9th August 2016


In reply to the Hon. MARK PEARSON (31 May 2016).

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA (Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Multiculturalism)—The Minister provided the following response:

I am advised:

The National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015—2019 is a joint strategy between Health and Agriculture. Through this strategy, the health sector will work with the agriculture and veterinary sectors to implement actions to reduce the risk of emergence and spread of multiresistant organisms in Australia.

NSW Health, in liaison with the Department of Primary Industry where appropriate, is developing local implementation plans consistent with the national direction set by the Strategy and Implementation Plan.

New South Wales hospitals are focused on three key strategies to prevent antibiotic resistance:

1.Preventing infections—which reduces the need for antibiotics (examples include hand hygiene and immunisation);

2.Antimicrobial stewardship—which involves using antibiotics more safely and appropriately; and

3.Preventing transmission of antibiotic-resistant organisms (examples include environmental cleaning and hand hygiene).

The NSW Ministry of Health monitors the incidence of selected high risk healthcare associated infections in New South Wales public hospitals such as bloodstream infections due to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. All hospitals are required to have infection prevention and control programs, and antimicrobial stewardship programs, to meet minimum standards for quality and safety.

The Clinical Excellence Commission provides support and training to hospital staff to improve infection prevention and control programs and antimicrobial stewardship programs. Hand hygiene compliance in New South Wales hospitals is now 84.1 per cent, which is higher than the national average. A recent project to improve antibiotic use resulted in an increase in compliance with prescribing guidelines from 74 per cent to 86 per cent. Evidence illustrates that these types of initiatives improve patient outcomes and reduce mortality associated with infections.