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Antibiotic management program visits Cooktown

7 June 2019

Antibiotic use on the Eastern Cape will come under the microscope during a visit to Cooktown by
representatives of a state-wide program to minimise the over-use of the lifesaving drugs.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Eastern Director of Medical Services Dr Tash Coventry said Cooktown would host a visit by the Queensland State-wide Antimicrobial Stewardship Program on 10–11 June.

Dr Coventry said the antimicrobial representatives would be providing education and training to staff at the Cooktown Multipurpose Health Service, as well as undertaking an audit of current antibiotic use in the hospital.

The visiting three-person team will be led by Antimicrobial Stewardship Program Director Dr Trent Yarwood.

The antimicrobial program is hosted by the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and was launched in individual hospital and health services in early 2017 with initial programs started in the Central West and South West hospital and health services.

The program has since been progressively rolled out throughout Queensland.

Dr Coventry said the overuse or misuse of antibiotics was developing into a major health concern both nationally and internationally.

“For the past 70 or so years, the use of antibiotics has made it possible to treat most bacterial infections and saved millions of lives,’’ she said.

“But we’ve become so accustomed to antibiotics that we have now reached the stage where we’re overusing or misusing them.

“On any given day in Australian hospitals, at least 20 per cent of patients are on antibiotics, yet up to 50 per cent of antibiotic prescribing in hospitals both Australia-wide and internationally is not optimal or appropriate.

“There’s also extensive antibiotic prescribing through GPs and, in addition, antibiotics also are being overused or misused in other industries such as farming and animal husbandry.

“This overuse is allowing some bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics and, indeed, to become multidrug resistant in a number of cases.

“This may well leave us unable to treat some bacterial infections properly, with potentially fatal consequences for some of the patients who have them.

“In fact, some bacteria are now so resistant there are already no medications available to treat infections caused by them.

“That’s why it’s important we look at ways of reducing the unnecessary or sub-optimal use of antibiotics and educating clinicians and the general public in more appropriate usage.’’

Dr Coventry said members of the public could do their bit to optimise the use of antibiotics by following two simple steps:

Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed: Even if you feel better, do not skip doses or stop taking an antibiotic early without approval from your healthcare professional.

Throw leftover antibiotics away: Never save antibiotics for future illnesses, take antibiotics prescribed for others, or share antibiotics with others. Talk to your pharmacist about how to dispose of leftover antibiotics.

Dr Coventry said proper antibiotic management in health service settings was a collaborative effort between prescribing doctors, pharmacists and nursing staff.

She said the Queensland antimicrobial management program was part of a national strategy to prevent antibiotic-resistant superbugs from emerging.

“Antimicrobial resistance, commonly known as antibiotic resistance, is one of the key threats to the ongoing delivery of healthcare in Australia,” she said.

“The focus of the state-wide program is to deliver additional antibiotic background support to rural health service clinicians, such as ourselves here in Cooktown, as well as provide real time assistance with patient management and optimisation of antibiotic use.’’

Last updated: 19 June 2019