The already embattled Veterans Affairs Department is facing another wave of bad press over pest infestations at several VA hospitals.
The discovery of a bat in a trash can earlier this month forced a facility in Leavenworth, KS, to shut down its operating rooms, postponing 16 surgeries.
A hospital spokesperson said this wasn’t the first time the 85-year-old hospital has dealt with bats.
But employees say the scope of the problem this time around was greater. One employee, speaking anonymously, told local news outlets that there were more than 100 bats. Even after the bats were removed, air quality had to be tested before operations continued.
And last month, the Tampa Bay Times published an email revealing that the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, FL, was fighting infestations of rats and cockroaches.
In a note to staff, Infection Prevention Coordinator Miriam Ruisz wrote after receiving several photos of dead pests that “3 dead rats…fell through the kitchen ceiling last night” and that “some roaches have been found on patients’ trays.” She also noted that “2 months ago [when a ceiling was replaced] they ‘filled multiple buckets with roaches, dead rats, and feces.’”
Asking what was being done about the pests, she commented that “obviously if someone sent me the pictures, we could possibly end up on the news, not to mention, risk patient safety [sad face emoticon].”
VA facilities have faced extra scrutiny ever since last April, when it became public that veterans were dying while waiting for care. A subsequent investigation at the Pennsylvania VA found that not only were veteran care inquiries being neglected, but employees were also working in vermin-infested environments.
So what is being done about the most recent incidents?
Karen Collins, a spokesperson for the Haley facility, said in a statement that “Being in a tropical, urban environment, we are keenly aware of the potential of, and continually monitor for, any pest control issues” and that a new pest control firm had been awarded a five-year contract to deal with the issues.
“We make every effort to provide the safest and best experience possible for veterans who entrust us with delivering the care they have earned and deserve,” she said.