COCKROACHES, rats and mice infestations have led to nearly 900 call-outs for pest controllers at NHS Lothian sites since 2010.
Figures obtained by the Edinburgh Evening News reveal spending has more than doubled as health bosses battle to rid hospitals and health centres of nuisance visitors – anything from flying ants to foxes.
The health board was asked, under a Freedom of Information Act request, to provide details of how often pest controllers had visited any of its premises.
The results showed a catalogue of problems including dead pigeons rotting on wards as well as cockroaches in wards and the kitchen at the Western General Hospital.
The insects were also exterminated in the haematology department and even the chaplaincy office at the city hospital this year.
Silverfish, insects that typically dwell in damp areas such as garages and sheds, have been frequently spotted in various departments of the Sick Kids hospital along with mice, wasps and ants.
The number of cases at the region’s largest hospital – the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary – has not been revealed as the hospital has a Private Finance Initiative contract, which means means bosses are not obliged to reveal these details.
But with operations postponed in 2012 after flies from a maggot-infested pigeon carcass were found in sterile operating theatres, the flagship faces similar problems.
Patient groups and politicians slammed the findings as “unacceptable”, saying that they raised questions about the standards of cleanliness and hygiene in the region’s health facilities.
Dr Jean Turner, a former GP and executive director of the Scotland Patient Association, said it was the last thing people needed when staying in hospital.
“I know it can be difficult, especially with older buildings, but the implication is that they’re getting out of control,” she said.
“If you’re seeing cockroaches on wards, I don’t think it will do patients any good – especially if you don’t like creepy crawlies.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said there were no excuses for recurrent pests.
“Unless a hospital is in a strictly rural setting – which most of these are not – it’s very difficult to defend regular discovery of pests,” he said.
“There has been increasing concern in recent years about hospital hygiene, and this will do nothing to ease that.
“Patients do not want to place their trust in the NHS only to find there is a risk of rats, mice or worse crawling around the wards.”
Last year health chiefs were forced to spend £38,767 tackling the problem, up from £16,796 in 2010.
George Curley, director of operations facilities at NHS Lothian, said contractors carried out regular inspections across its 300 sites to check for problems. But he added that seasonal factors can have a big influence with hot weather often attracting wasps and flies. He said: “There are times when we do have to call in our pest control contractors to deal with immediate infestations, which they do swiftly and effectively.
“On these occasions, they will continue to visit the site to ensure the problem has been completely eradicated.”
Plague of mice
MICE and ants were the most recurrent pest problem accounting for hundreds of the call-outs at NHS Lothian sites.
The Western General has suffered from a number of cockroach problems this year, with nine incidents on wards and in the kitchen of the hospital.
More unusual incidents have included reports of foxes at Western General and Edenhall Hospital last year.