The Unwanted Guest: Bedbugs and Other Pest Infestations
According to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), nearly 40% of Americans are concerned about bedbugs in medical facilities. When bedbugs or other pests are unwittingly carried into your facility, exacerbating ailing patients’ pain, your reputation will suffer. Even worse, an infestation can represent a serious liability risk. Bedbugs, spiders, biting ants and other pests can be carried in on patients’ clothes and possessions or on those of their visitors, and the high traffic in a health care facility makes it particularly prone to infestation. Although most common pests, including bedbugs, aren’t known to spread disease, they do cause painful, itchy welts that can be miserable and psychologically tortuous for a patient. It’s important to plan and prepare your staff for an infestation so you are able to respond quickly.
Recognizing an Infestation
Nurses and cleaning staff should conduct regular inspections to discover infestations before a patient or family member does. Instruct staff to inspect all rooms upon vacancy, looking for living or dead bugs, small bloodstains from crushed insects and dark spots from droppings. These identifiers can be anywhere, from floorboards to walls to linens. They’re often found in hidden places such as cracks or crevices.
When an Infestation is Discovered
It’s crucial to have a plan in place to address patient complaints about bedbugs. Immediately transfer the patient to a new room, reassuring that no disease can be transmitted through the pests, and instruct cleaning staff to:
- Launder the patient’s clothes and bedding in hot water and then dry for an hour on the hottest setting that is safe for the materials.
- Use a stiff brush to dislodge bedbugs and eggs.
- Use a HEPA vacuum on the mattress, bed frame, furniture, floor and carpet, and discard the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag.
- Store mattresses and box springs in plastic bags for at least one year.
When these steps have been taken, conduct a thorough inspection and treatment of the room with a licensed pest control professional. Don’t use the room until the professional certifies that it is free of pests.
For liability purposes, thoroughly document your pest mitigation process and swiftly resolve all identified infestations. However, if a patient does pursue litigation, weigh the cost of settlement against lost business carefully. An infestation can be extremely detrimental to reputation.
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