Pest control in hospitals
The NHS spends approximately £100,000 each year on pest control in hospitals for London alone. It’s a serious problem, and given the current coronavirus pandemic, hospitals and healthcare facilities are going to be stretched to capacity (and perhaps beyond). The last thing they need is to worry about a pest infestation. In this article, we outline the pests that pose the biggest threat to hospitals and their patients, as well as some of the pests you may be taking back home.
The most common issues of pest control in hospitals
In a health care context, any animal or insect is potentially a danger. Nevertheless, hospital buildings are not different than our homes; they are not immune to a patient bringing an infested suitcase with her. The same can be said with deliveries and open doors. It takes but one opportunity for pests to get in.
Rats and mice can get into a building via the smallest gap in a wall or floorboard, and once they’re inside, they like to stay there. Rodents generally like to chew on things, which can cause huge problems for the building and patients. Rats and mice will gnaw through wood, floorboards, and plaster on walls, weakening the structural integrity. They may also chew through electrical wires, which can affect hospital equipment and cause significant repair costs, not to mention the increased fire risk that comes with broken wires.
As well as the physical damage that rodents can cause, they leave urine and droppings everywhere they go. They’ll be attracted to kitchen areas and pantries and may contaminate the hospital’s supply of food, which poses a health risk and an economic nightmare. On the wards, they can also cause havoc for the infection risk they pause. Many patients are already compromised from underlying health conditions, and any sighting of mice will often lead to the ward closure.
The best way to go about a rodent problem in a hospital ward is to seal off any entry points that would allow them in. For most modern buildings, it is actually not necessarily an issue, as they are often built that way. But for victorian buildings that have been retrofitted to modern specs, there are often gaps around electricals and pipework left that mice can take advantage of.
Bed bugs are arguably the biggest concern for hospitals; they spread very easily via clothing, bags, and regular visitors, and you can have a large-scale infestation on your hands incredibly quickly. It can also be difficult to eliminate bed bugs from a logistical perspective fully. Hospitals and nursing homes are full of beds and furniture, and many patients will be unable to leave their beds for long enough to provide adequate pest control treatment. There isn’t a spare bed for every patient!
Bed bugs are also incredibly problematic due to the fact that they live on beds – they cause physical and emotional discomfort for anyone who’s lying in a bed with bed bugs. Bed bugs bite, and their bites can cause inflammation and itchiness – the last thing you want when you’re admitted to the hospital. Pest control in hospitals will not replace the simple precaution of hot washing all the clothes you brought from the hospital.
We had to deal with many jobs that involved a mother that had arrived recently from the maternity wing with a newborn. Catching a bed bug infestation not only came at the worst time, but the presence of the infant required doing a bed bug heat treatment instead of the traditional chemical treatment.
Cockroaches pose a significant threat to our health and are therefore a huge problem for hospitals and healthcare facilities where people’s immune systems are vulnerable. Cockroaches carry a number of diseases, including salmonella and even typhoid, as well as parasites and bacteria. They’re also incredibly resilient and can survive in very hostile environments.
Food is at risk of being contaminated, as are any operating theatres and areas which need to be sterile. Cockroaches aren’t particularly fussy when it comes to where they stay; they’ll colonise areas under sinks and toilets, kitchen units, food cupboards – virtually anywhere.
Cockroaches may also be a sign that hygiene levels in a facility are subpar, as they tend to breed and flourish in sewers or damp areas. Not only are they a problem themselves, but they’re also symptomatic of a wider issue.
This may be a surprising entry to this article, but birds (mostly pigeons) cause significant problems for hospitals – especially in London, where there are estimated to be over a million pigeons. Specifically, it’s the droppings and feathers of birds that pose a threat. They carry a myriad of diseases and can even affect air quality in and around a hospital. Once again, people with a depressed immune system are particularly vulnerable.
Pigeons congregate near hospitals because they offer shelter, vantage points, plenty of roof space, and access to food dropped by visitors or thrown away by the hospital. Their large numbers mean that they produce a significant amount of droppings, which can lead to structural damage for buildings and vehicles – and it’s a serious eyesore.
Flies are an obvious problem for hospitals. Being flying pests, they move around very easily and quickly, contaminating everything they come into contact with. From food to equipment to furniture, it’s hard to keep flies away from virtually anything. Flies are known to carry diseases such as salmonellosis, conjunctivitis, and tuberculosis, so appropriate pest control measures are paramount in healthcare centres.
Take measures rather than need pest control in hospitals
There are some things that healthcare professionals can do to help to reduce the likelihood of a pest infestation developing. Of course, doctors, nurses, and caregivers are incredibly busy, so these are little practical steps that can be taken.
It may sound simple (almost patronising), but taking an extra couple of seconds to clean your table after eating lunch can go a long way. Simply sweeping up the crumbs and wiping up any spillages will make the area far less attractive to pests. Similarly, keep your food in a sealed container and make sure it’s stored appropriately – if something is meant to be refrigerated, then don’t leave it in a cupboard where it’s likely to expire quickly and attract pests.
Also, don’t let rubbish pile up and bins spillover. Empty them as soon as they’re full – the less time rubbish spends lying around, the better. And ensure that all bins have lids; it’s an added barrier against pests.
Control what comes in
It’s important to control what is entering your hospital or facility. Whoever is responsible for taking in food deliveries must inspect them and make sure they’re correctly packaged and aren’t harbouring any unwanted guests. By the same token, don’t leave any external doors open for long – keep them closed so that pests don’t simply wander in. Failing to do so is like willingly opening your front door at home for burglars.
Report bigger issues
These maintenance steps will go a long way to reducing your risk, but the biggest piece of advice we can give is to call a professional to fix certain structural problems that are likely to attract pests. For example, if you notice leaks or areas of dampness, then call a plumber immediately. If you notice decaying wood inside or on the building’s exterior, or cracks and gaps forming in the walls and floorboards, then call someone to repair this immediately. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and this rings true for pest control.
If you suspect that you have a pest issue, i.e., by spotting droppings or evidence of some other activity, then call a pest controller immediately. It’s important to have the situation assessed and treated as soon as possible to minimise the extent of the infestation and the damage caused by pests.
Here at Inoculand, we’ve been taking care of London’s pest control problems for over a decade. We have vast experience in both the residential and commercial sectors, and we’re more than equipped to deal with pest problems in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Our pest control experts will assess the situation and tackle the pests using the most effective and least intrusive methods available. We also offer a proofing service, which will protect your building from being overrun by pests again. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you.