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Rats, cockroaches, fleas and maggots found in Northern Ireland's hospitals

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 08/04/2016

Rats found in kitchen area of Musgrave Hospital. Stocj image
Rats found in kitchen area of Musgrave Hospital. Stocj image

Rats, cockroaches, fleas and maggots have been found crawling around Northern Ireland's hospitals, it can be revealed.

Pest controllers are called out 10 times every week on average to deal with infestations of vermin.

Rodents and insects have been discovered in operating theatres, wards, maternity units and even kitchens.

In a particularly nasty case, lice were found crawling around the operating room of Musgrave Park Hospital.

In just 12 months experts were summoned more than 600 times to deal with sightings of pests.

Ulster Unionist health spokeswoman Jo-Anne Dobson warned patients' health was at risk.

"It is very concerning that Trusts have reported incidents of pests on their premises which are known to transmit very serious disease," she said,

"They obviously have no place in a healthcare or residential setting in close proximity to vulnerable and ill people."

Around 1,500 pest sightings were investigated across the five health trusts in nearly three years.

They include:

  • Rats found in the kitchen area of Musgrave Hospital;
  • A mouse in a neurology department in the Belfast Trust;
  • Earwigs discovered in the Ulster Hospital;
  • Fleas crawling around part of Lagan Valley Hospital;
  • Cockroaches in the RGH maternity unit;
  • Maggots in the Ulster Hospital;
  • "Crawling insects" discovered in Altnagelvin Hospital.

Documents obtained by this newspaper show pest controllers dealt with 1,506 incidents at hospitals between April 2013 and last December.

Not every callout resulted in the pest being found.

Some of the more unusual examples included reports of pigeons, bats and even a seagull.

The Belfast Trust - Northern Ireland's largest health trust - had to call out experts 620 times in 33 months.

Incidents included a mouse sighted in the main block and restaurant at Musgrave Park Hospital, and a rat in the kitchen of the same hospital. Lice were also found in the hospital's theatre block. Other pests found in its hospitals included ants, bluebottles and cockroaches.

The Trust said: "Belfast Trust recognises that good pest control is an essential part of maintaining a safe environment and takes effective management of all pest control incidences very seriously.

"We have a proactive pest management structure in place.

"Staff vigilance and early intervention by pest control specialists ensures that any suspected pest activity is dealt with as swiftly as possible."

Rats were also found at Antrim Area Hospital, Muckamore Abbey Hospital, Lagan Valley Hospital and the Ulster Hospital. The South Eastern Trust said: "The Trust places a high priority of cleanliness for our patients and staff."

The Western Trust confirmed "rodent activity" at four of its hospitals, but did not specify what the pests were.

It said staff took a "proactive approach" to pest management, adding that construction work at Altnagelvin and the Tyrone and Fermanagh hospital sites may have contributed to rodent activity.

The Southern Trust said it was aware of rats, but did not state which hospitals were affected.

It said: "The Trust has a well-established pro-active pest management system in place as a key part of our commitment to ensuring that we are able to provide a safe environment for patients and staff."

Mrs Dobson said that while the warmth and shelter provided by public buildings will entice pests, the number of infestations was shocking.

"I am shocked at the sheer scale of reported pests at health facilities across Northern Ireland," she added.

"People expect our hospitals and clinics to be clean, and thanks to the non-stop efforts of our auxiliary staff across the health service, they usually are. As these figures reveal, however, it is clear that pest control in hospitals and health care facilities here is a real and persistent challenge to our local health trusts.

"I would call on all five of our local trusts to make every effort to help minimise this issue in the interests of public health."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The health estate is a large one with some 1,500 premises and approximately 1.75million square feet of floor space.

"Trusts take a proactive and rigorous approach to the management of pest control on all sites.

"This includes preventative inspections and treatments as well as call out services in the event of a reported pest issue or sighting.

"All callouts are followed up by a report identifying all necessary control measures to be implemented."

The list of pests and vermin... and exactly where they've been discovered

Rats

Antrim Hospital (deceased rats)

Holywell Hospital (deceased rats)

Belfast City Hospital

Royal Victoria Hospital

Muckamore Abbey Hospital

Musgrave Park Hospital

Cancer Hospital

Mater Hospital

Royal Group of Hospitals (RGH) Children's Hospital

RGH Maternity

Lagan Valley Hospital

Downe Hospital

Downshire Hospital

Ulster Hospital

Southern Health Trust

Mice

Holywell Hospital (deceased mice)

Musgrave Park Hospital

RGH Children's Hospital

RGH Maternity

Ards Hospital

Downe Hospital

Lagan Valley Hospital

Ards Hospital

Ulster Hospital

Downshire Hospital

Southern Health Trust

Fleas

Antrim Hospital

Holywell Hospital

Altnagelvin Hospital

Ulster Hospital

Lagan Valley Hospital

Fruit flies

lRGH Children's Hospital

Mites

Holywell Hospital

Birds

Antrim Hospital

Holywell Hospital

Maggots

Ulster Hospital

Earwigs

Antrim Hospital

lUlster Hospital

Lagan Valley Hospital

Beetles

lAntrim Hospital

Ants

Antrim Hospital

Holywell Hospital

Causeway Hospital

Royal Victoria Hospital

Downshire Hospital

Lagan Valley Hospital

Lice

Musgrave Park Hospital

Bluebottles

RGH Maternity

RGH Children's Hospital

Bed bugs

Causeway Hospital

Cockroaches

RGH Children's Hospital

RGH Maternity

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