Patient Safety is Priority for Lumino Dentists Following HIV and Hepatitis Scare in Australia
Warnings that thousands of dental patients in New South Wales may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis has put the spotlight on dental equipment sterilisation and infection control practices in New Zealand as well as in Australia.
The New Zealand Dental Association has recently introduced a new Code of Practice, Infection Prevention and Control in Dental Practice for dentists in New Zealand; while the Dental Council of New Zealand are also due to put out a new code of practice in this area.
New Zealand’s largest dental network, Lumino The Dentists, has taken the front foot on ensuring compliance with the new Code and is introducing new sterilisation protocols and documentation processes across its 91 practices, as well as investing into upgraded equipment.
An average Lumino practice will use up to 360 different pieces of equipment daily, with an average of 20 to 30 pieces of equipment requiring cleaning and sterilisation after each patient.
With a cost in the thousands of dollars for an ultrasonic cleaner and steriliser machine, ensuring patient safety isn’t cheap and is one of the hidden costs of providing dental treatment.
Ensuring best practice involves a number of different steps including daily testing of ultrasonic cleaning and sterilisation equipment; batch coding of critical instruments (those that go into the tissue such as needles); and new practices around storing sharps. As an example, batch coding allows a practice to track critical instruments, when they were used, with which patients on what days; and the date and time they were cleaned and sterilised.
While this may be time consuming, these processes ensure peace of mind and safety for Lumino’s patients and staff. The group has not ruled out the use of specialist sterilisation nurses in larger practices to help manage the documentation and workload involved in this area.