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Minister supports plans to flag non-immunised patients

The Northern NSW Local Health District report is the result of an investigation launched on March 22 about the care provided to an unvaccinated, seven-year-old girl diagnosed with tetanus at Lismore Base Hospital.
The Northern NSW Local Health District report is the result of an investigation launched on March 22 about the care provided to an unvaccinated, seven-year-old girl diagnosed with tetanus at Lismore Base Hospital. Contributed

WEDNESDAY 10.35am: THE State Minister for Health Brad Hazzard has praised a plan to flag immunisation status in patient's medical records at North Coast public hospitals.

Northern NSW Health District CEO said the flagging system is one of a series of measures to strengthen care for unvaccinated patients after a child was diagnosed with tetanus in March.

Mr Hazzard said he'll be watching the roll out of the initiative closely with a keen interest to determine whether it could be installed at other local health districts.

"I am sure NSW Health will keep a close eye on the effectiveness of this initiative and once evaluated, advise whether it believes a similar program could be rolled-out across other Health Districts," Mr Hazzard said.

"I applaud any effort to better inform parents about the life-saving benefits of vaccination, particularly in northern NSW where immunisation rates are not as strong as elsewhere in the state."

Lismore paediatrician Chris Ingall said he was in full support of implementing a flagging system for non-immunised patients statewide.

"I would be 100% behind it as a medico, I would love to know who's not vaccinated," Dr Ingall said.

 

WEDNESDAY 5.30am: FLAGGING non-vaccinated status in patient medical records at Northern Rivers public hospitals will be part of a suite of measures aimed at improving care to those who aren't immunised.

The Northern NSW Local Health District outlined the plan in a report finalised on Monday that also detailed findings into the care provided to an unvaccinated, seven-year-old girl diagnosed with tetanus at Lismore Base Hospital.

The report is the result of an investigation launched on March 22 - a week after the girl was transferred to Lady Cliento Hospital in a critical condition.

Health district CEO Wayne Jones said staff acted in accordance with policy in treating the child.

"Overall, the findings found the staff did comply with health policy in raising immunisation concerns with the young child's parents," Mr Jones said.

But Mr Jones said the investigation revealed "there was an opportunity to alert paediatricians more quickly" to treat the child.

He also said clinicians involved could have been "more vigorous" in communicating the importance of vaccination to the young girl's parents that would have prevented the infection.

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Better training staff to identify and treat rare, vaccine preventable diseases coupled with recording non-immunisation status are key changes to be rolled out in September.

The flagging system would be accompanied by steps to guide clinicians to care for non-vaccinated people who may be at-risk to rare diseases like tetanus.

"It'll give us the opportunity to ensure that when people come in who are at greater risk when they're not immunised that we flag them and there is a set of actions that are standard across the health district," Mr Jones said.

"I think care will be provided more robustly."

Under the new measures, he said referrals to paediatricians for non-immunised children at risk would be faster than in the past.

Lismore paediatrician, Chris Ingall, who cared for the child when she presented to Lismore Base Hospital, supported the policies to better treat and identify rare diseases like tetanus.

"The connection wasn't there until she became quite unwell," Dr Ingall said.

He said flagging non-immunised children in particular was a great and timely initiative.

"I'm really pleased with it because it might make more points of contact to persuade people to vaccinate."

Mr Jones said the girl's parents were invited to participate in the investigation but declined due to their daughter's ongoing recovery needs.

Topics:  immunisation northern nsw health district northern nsw public hospitals northern rivers education northern rivers healh vaccination northern nsw


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