This Infocus report presents rates of healthcare-associated bloodstream infections in Australia’s biggest public hospitals caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus.

Although commonly found on the skin of healthy people, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) can cause serious illness if it gets into the bloodstream. Evidence suggests 20% to 35% of people with this sort of infection die from it or a related cause.1–4 S. aureus is sometimes also known as Golden Staph, a term that refers to the majority of cases that can be treated with antibiotics, as well as to the more dangerous cases that are resistant to antibiotics. This report covers both types. S. aureus bloodstream infections contracted while in hospital are considered potentially preventable and hospitals aim to have as few of these infections as possible.

In 2012–13 there were 1,724 cases of healthcare-associated S. aureus bloodstream infection reported as being acquired while receiving care in a public hospital. The number of cases has declined since 2011–12 in major hospitals that have a larger proportion of patients more vulnerable to these infections.

The report highlights variation in infection rates across major and large hospitals. Among major hospitals with more vulnerable patients the rate of infection varied more than three-fold. At major hospitals with fewer vulnerable patients, rates were 11 times higher at some hospitals than others.