August 8, 2008

Hospitals Deny Any Pest Control Problem

By Matt Chorley London Editor

Hospitals last night hit back at criticism of their pest control after details emerged of dozens of infestations involving rats, wasps, flies, fleas, seagulls and maggots.

Statistics released under a Freedom of Information request showed pest controllers were called out to NHS Trust hospitals in the Westcountry almost 350 times in two years.

It followed exclusive revelations in the WMN in June which showed maggots had been found in the mortuary at North Devon District Hospital.

Last night the Conservatives demanded ministers explain how the incidents have happened.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health warned the pest problem will "only get worse" unless a single Government department is put in charge of tackling the issue.

But hospital trusts defended their record. Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust called in pest control 145 times between January 2006 and April 2008 to deal with rats, mice, ants, biting insects, flies, pigeons and woodlice.

However a spokesman for the hospital said it "strongly refuted" any suggestion it had a pest problem.

He said that "at no time has the safety or health of our patients, visitors or staff been compromised".

"It is disappointing that the pro-active approach of our staff to report any suspicions and routine regular inspections by a contracted company could be interpreted as being anything other than positive and responsible site management," he said.

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust had 89 call-outs in the same period, including fleas, wasps, rats and mice.

A spokesman said all forms of pest control are taken "extremely seriously" especially to ensure all necessary control and treatment measures are in place.

"The vast majority of reports we receive relate to issues such as insects in plat and storage areas," he said.

"As a large campus backing on to open land, from time to time we also have to deal with rodents. We have not had any reports of serious infestations relating to patient or clinical areas."

Dorset County Hospital called out pest control 44 times while Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust has monthly visits from pest control experts to keep on top of the issue.

Northern Devon Healthcare Trust reportedly had a case of a mouse in casualty but a spokesman said it was a field mouse disturbed by a farmer ploughing a field.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley told the WMN: "A clean, safe environment in a hospital makes a big difference both to patients and to the NHS staff who work so hard to provide them with the care they need. That's why these figures are worrying."

Health Minister Ivan Lewis said: "The claim that insects spread hospital acquired infections is entirely unproven. There is no evidence of their carriage of antibiotic resistant bacteria being a hazard to patients."

(c) 2008 Western Morning News, The Plymouth (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.