A hand hygiene audit at Dunedin Hospital has found that only 53 per cent of staff are washing or sterilising their hands, figures from Southern District Health Board (DHB) show.
Meanwhile, doctors' compliance was about 40 per cent, according to figures provided to the Otago Daily Times.
Hand hygiene refers to either traditional hand-washing or applying an anti-microbial agent without water.
Chief medical officer David Tulloch said the national average for hand hygiene compliance was 63 per cent.
This figure included DHBs that had been "working on this issue for longer".
Hand-washing was likely to be introduced as an official national health target, increasing its prominence and public awareness, Mr Tulloch said.
A culture change around all aspects of hand hygiene best practice was still developing at Dunedin Hospital, he said.
Hand hygiene was still a "relatively new initiative" in New Zealand. The DHB was reviewing where hand-cleaning products were placed to ensure easy access, Mr Tulloch said.