|Dr. Richard Bell examines a tiny patient.
NorthBay Medical Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has gone more than a year - 373 days - without one tiny patient developing a central line infection.
"This is a remarkable accomplishment," says Dr. Richard Bell, a neonatologist and medical director of the NICU. "This took outstanding work by the entire nursing staff who paid attention to the smallest details in the use of central lines."
Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSI) are costly and dangerous, particularly if they strike these low birth-weight babies. NICU babies need catheters to monitor and to provide nutrition. However, for every line that is inserted, ther
e is a risk of infection.
While the Fairfield NICU has always maintained one of the lowest CLABSI rates in the state, the unit was determined to become even better.
"At one time, it was believed that a certain number of babies would inevitably develop infections," Dr. Bell explains. "Then an adult ICU study demonstrated that it was possible, using certain protocols, to prevent infections almost entirely. We wanted to do that."
In 2008 NorthBay Medical Center joined a statewide collaborative of 19 community-based neonatal intensive care units to study how to reduce infection rates. The hospitals shared case studies, procedures and data.
By 2009, the NICU had already reduced overall infection rates by 33 percent. The NICU also began a policy of public disclosure about infections. Door signs proclaimed how many days the unit had been without an infection. Parents were instructed about the importance of good hand hygiene and how to avoid spreading infections.
The results were immediate. In the past 618 days, the NICU logged just one infection.
"This is a testament to the diligence, hard work and proper infection prevention techniques practiced by the NICU staff - not once, but every time," says Daman Mott, director of clinical support services and infection control.
The NICU celebrated their accomplishment March 9 with two staff parties.
"I've never been more proud to work here than today," says Dr. Bell of his staff's accomplishment.