15 August 2023

Hospital dental team all smiles after health district recognition for patient safety

| Jarryd Rowley
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dental assistant

Wagga Base Hospital dental assistant Tanya Sarantakos demonstrates the new technology that allows for faster biohazard testing. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District’s dental health unit has been recognised with the 2023 Excellence Award in Patient Safety for its use of innovative technology.

The unit is the first in NSW to trial waterline technology that enables rapid and reliable tests on treatment chairs that check for potential biohazards.

The chairs used in the unit are connected to waterlines, used to clean, rinse and treat patients, and require consistent cleaning and tests for harmful bacteria and viruses that may make people sick.

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Using the previous technology, chairs that had been tested could be out of action for several days while waiting for results.

The new waterline technology allows for results to be determined in less than three minutes, keeping the downtime for the chairs to a minimum.

Should a chair and its waterlines fail a test, the chair would require a deep clean and would be tested again the following day.

Oral health clinical director for Southern NSW LHD Dr Neville Heer said the presence of biofilms in dental waterlines was a problem because they could trap pathogens that may cause respiratory and wound infections.

two female dental clinic staff with poster

The Wagga Wagga Base Hospital Dental Clinic has been recognised for its outstanding patient care by receiving the 2023 Excellence Award in the Patient Safety category as part of the Murrumbidgee Local Health District Health Awards. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

“Our standard cleaning and safe work practices are effective at reducing waterline biofilms, but waterline testing is an important second line of defence,” Dr Heer said.

“Previously, it was more time and labour-intensive to test waterlines for biofilms.

“We were using an agar plate to test each waterline and would have to wait for the incubation period, which took several days to determine the result, meaning the dental chair couldn’t be used during that time.

“Now, with the digital testing, there’s no wait time, we can do the test, get the result in two minutes, and get back to work.”

Dr Heer said the whole dental team was thrilled to receive the 2023 MLHD Excellence Award.

“The safety of our patients is at the heart of everything we do,” he said.

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Wagga Base Hospital dental assistant Tanya Sarantakos said the award gave the team a sense of pride.

“It is nice to receive recognition for the work that all the staff put in,” she said.

“We have a team of between 25 and 30 people and we all do our best to provide for our patients as best as possible.

“The new waterline technology has helped with the efficiency with which we can support them.”

The award was given to the unit during Dental Health Week (7-13 August), which raises oral health awareness and is run by the Australian Dental Association.

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