Australia takes needlestick and sharps bid to parliament

June 26, 2013

An Australian MP has taken a bill, which would enforce the use of safety-engineered needles medical devices (SEMDs) by every hospital in the country, to parliament. 

It is hoped this move would reduce the number of people across the nation affected by needlestick and sharps injuries, according to the Nursing Careers Allied Health website. 

Western Australian MP Dr Mal Washer has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to Federal Parliament, which would make it law for hospitals to use SEMDs, which already exists in other parts of the world like Canada, the United States and in Europe.

Recent figures indicate that in excess of 18,000 nurses and other health care workers are suffering this type of injury every year in Australia. This puts them at an unnecessary risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like hepatitis B or C or HIV. Research has also shown that, even if a negative result is returned, the process of having to get tested can cause the same amount of mental trauma as a severe car accident.

The Medical Technology Association of Australia recently released a report that found SEMDs can reduce injuries by more than 80 per cent. If these are used along with relevant training and guidelines it can reduce needlestick and sharps injuries by more than 90 per cent.

It also reflected a financial element and indicated that Australia's health system could save around $18.6 million every year through enforcing SEMDs in the nation's hospitals.

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) federal secretary Lee Thomas said that a combination of  legislation, SEMDs, workplace risk assessments and ongoing education was the only way that needlestick injuries would be effectively be reduced for nurses.

Ms Thomas said although estimates from ANF indicated it would cost $50 million to initially equip Australia’s public hospitals with the right equipment and training, there had been limited progress in the use of safety devices throughout hospitals.

She added: "It is crucial that our current nursing professionals work in a safe environment, with appropriate measures undertaken to ensure their protection from the risk of preventable injury from needles and sharps."

Related Legislation and Guidelines: