New data shows the appalling state of NI’s health facilities plagued by pest infestations
Infestations of rats, ants, flies and even cockroaches have been discovered in hospital wards across Northern Ireland.
The appalling state of our hospital estate can be revealed, with staff complaining about the stench of decomposing rats and mice, and rodents “merrily perusing the area and leaving their droppings behind”.
Meanwhile, staff working in a hospital laboratory reported maggots dropping from the ceiling, while a cockroach was discovered in the kitchen of a children’s home in recent years.
Data released by the five health trusts details disturbing infestations of insects and rodents in GP surgeries, hospital wards, ICUs, operating theatres, children’s homes, day care centres and nursing homes.
On one occasion staff reported they had been bitten by fleas, while the presence of dead rats and mice were also a frequent occurrence in healthcare facilities.
In a particularly alarming case, flies and fly larvae were found in a hospital mortuary, raising serious questions over hygiene levels.
It has also emerged an emergency department, including a Covid assessment reception, was infested with silverfish in July 2021.
We asked the five health trusts for information about pest infestations between 2018 and 2021.
The trusts were able to provide varying degrees of data – for example, the Belfast Trust was unable to provide a breakdown by hospital and could only provide a rough location by type of pest.
It has experienced infestations of fleas in an office; cockroaches in a delivery suite, short stay unit, a number of sluice rooms, scan room and staff room; silverfish in a treatment room; beetles in an operating theatre; rats in kitchens; ants in a dining room; a mouse in a fracture clinic and silverfish in a staff restaurant.
The Northern Trust was unable to state the location of pest infestations, but said it had dealt with 755 incidents involving the likes of cockroaches, mice, rats, bedbugs, fleas, black ants, and flies over the four years.
Information provided by the Southern Trust was more specific – it experienced an infestation of fleas in an outpatient unit, flies in a number of wards at Craigavon Area Hospital, mice in a kitchen at the hospital, and rats at a respite unit for children with complex disabilities, or emotional or behavioural difficulties.
The Western Trust handled 261 reported infestations between 2018 and 2021, including mice in an intensive care unit, endoscopy, renal unit and breast screening unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.
There were also reports of rats in the emergency department at the hospital, as well as silverfish in the outpatient department and day case unit.
In the South Eastern Trust, a member of staff reported “a single mouse happily running amok in the kitchen area” at Lagan Valley Hospital.
The report continued: “Staff however are not happy to have little mouse in the kitchen area, please re-home little mouse to another mouse family.”
A patient reported evidence of mice in the female quiet room of the psychiatry department at Downe Hospital, including droppings and chewed cables, while “a number of little feet” were “heard scurrying around” the Downshire Hospital.
Staff at the Downe Hospital also advised “no, we aren’t joking” when they reported a swarm of up to 1,000 bees or wasps.
There was a report of a significant amount of “guano” – or bat droppings – in the air conditioning units at the Ulster Hospital critical care unit and rats were seen in a number of locations across the hospital, including the emergency department, critical care block and cardiac bay.
There was also a bug infestation and nest in a sterile goods room in the Ulster Hospital and multiple ant infestations in the renal unit last summer, including ants seen “going up doorframes outside the cleaners store”.
Meanwhile, “rats of the four-legged variety” were spotted at the Lakewood regional secure unit in Bangor.
The Department of Health was contacted for comment.