Photo: From left to right – Dr David Rimmer & Dr Krispin Hajkowicz

Antibiotic use in the Central West will come under the microscope as the region joins a state-wide
program to minimise over-use of the lifesaving drugs.

The Central West Hospital and Health Service is one of two inaugural launch sites for the Queensland
State-wide Antimicrobial Stewardship Program hosted by the Royal Brisbane and Women’s and
Princess Alexandra hospitals..

The other site is the South West Hospital and Health Service.

Central West Health Executive Director of Medical Services Dr David Rimmer 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,’’ he 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

“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 Rimmer 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 Rimmer said Longreach Hospital Director of Medical Services Dr David Walker would be the program
manager for the Central West Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, which was formally launched this
week (8 March).

“Dr Walker, district pharmacist Catherine Martin and Infection Control Clinical Nurse Consultant Caroline
Brown will lead the implementation of the program throughout the region,’’ he said.

“All three have been passionate advocates of this program and are well-placed to take us forward.’’

The Central West program launch was supported by State-wide Antimicrobial Stewardship Program
Director Dr Krispin Hajkowicz, along with program colleagues Dr Kathryn Daveson, an infectious
diseases specialist, and pharmacist Emily Waddell, who travelled from Brisbane.

As part of the Central West launch this week, the team will visit Blackall, Winton, Barcaldine and
Longreach to promote the antimicrobial program and its aims with local clinicians.

Dr Hajkowicz said following the launch in the Central West and South West, the program also would be
rolled out to other rural health services, including the North West and Torres and Cape.

He said the Queensland 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,” he said.

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

“Better antibiotic use will result in better patient outcomes.

“We hope to make Queensland the national leader in quality antibiotic use and prevention of resistance.”

Dr Hajkowicz said A Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Report, released in the United Kingdom in May
2016, said that if no action was taken to slow down the rise of drug resistance, by 2050, 10 million lives a
year would be at risk due to the rise of drug-resistant infections.

“This is why the Australian Government released the first National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy
2015-2019 to guide the response to the threat of antibiotic misuse and resistance and why the
Queensland State-wide Antimicrobial Stewardship Program was formed,’’ he said.