September 12, 2008

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs.. And Rats.. Bite in Lothian Hospitals

By Andrew Picken

RATS, beetles and cockroaches are among the pests which have been discovered in Lothian hospitals and health centres, it emerged today.

Figures released by NHS Lothian under freedom of information laws reveal there have been a total of 657 call-outs for pest controllers since 2005, with 126 visits to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital alone.

The majority of call-outs related to mice and ants with pest controllers using a variety of insecticidal sprays or traps to get rid of them.

Among the problems at the city's Western General were cockroaches and mice in kitchens, while evidence of rats was found in the ward which deals with treatment of kidney stones in May this year.

The Astley Ainslie Hospital also had a series of call-outs relating to mice and rat problems over the last three years.

Full details of pest control call-outs at the city's ERI were not released because of its PFI status but details available for 2008 show there was a problem with caterpillars in the neonatal ward in April, and one of the cafes had clusters of flies in June.

And July saw pest controllers visit the ground floor of the hospital's sector one and two a total of five times in two weeks to get rid of a beetle infestation.

The pest control measures have cost health chiefs GBP 91,045 over the last four years.

NHS Lothian said none of the infestations which resulted in the closure of any ward or department impacted on patient care.

Dr Jean Turner, chief executive of the Scotland Patients Association, said: "This is obviously not a new problem, I remember being a young doctor and being terrified of the cockroaches that used to roam the corridors.

"Hospitals are a lot like other big institutions such as hotels where there a lot of people in that you do have these problems, regardless of whether the building is new or old.

"Also there are a lot of people coming and going with food and this can be a problem if the cleanliness levels are not being kept up.

"The important thing is that they keep on top of the pest control because these pests do carry diseases and I would want reassurances from NHS Lothian that they are keeping a tight reign on these problems."

A total of 61 NHS Lothian buildings have had visits from pest controllers since 2005, including St John's Hospital in Livingston and the city's Sick Kids hospital.

John Jack, director of facilities at NHS Lothian, said: "Many of NHS Lothian's 300-plus healthcare premises are either in rural areas or have extensive grounds or woodland close by, such as Astley Ainslie in Edinburgh.

"Any organisation with green spaces to maintain has to manage the potential consequences of providing these much valued therapeutic spaces, which are extremely popular with patients.

"We have a robust system for preventing problems, and a robust system for dealing with the small number of incidents which may still occur despite the best efforts of our contractors."

Figures released last month showed NHS health trusts in England had almost 20,000 incidents of pest infestation in their hospitals over the past two years. Outbreaks have included rats in maternity wards, wasps and fleas in neonatal units and maggots in patients' slippers.

(c) 2008 Evening News; Edinburgh (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.