Warding off pests

18 September 2014

Keeping pests at bay is a daunting challenge for hospitals and other healthcare environments such as doctors surgeries and care homes. By their very nature they are designed to be open buildings with many exit points. They are easy for people to access and easy for pests to access too, explains the British Pest Control Association (BPCA).

Take a hospital, it usually comprises of a sprawling campus with buildings, new and old often connected by purpose-built corridors. The new building may have some pest proofing measures built in whereas the old one will be bereft of such niceties. Often all that’s protecting a patient from the dried (and fresh) bird droppings on the wide stone window ledge of the old building they’re staying in is a thin pane of glass. Once opened it’s a health risk. For a person with a robust constitution, there’s little if any risk from these droppings. For a person with a weakened immune system they are breathing in unhealthy air simply by opening up the window.

"Pests carry diseases," says Richard Moseley, BPCA Technical Manager. "A patient with an open wound for example will be vulnerable to the seemingly innocuous fly. With many hospitals struggling to maintain cleaning standards in the face of cutbacks, despite an increase in patient numbers, it’s imperative that a pest prevention policy is in place." 

Some pests can positively thrive in hospital and healthcare environments. Take bed bugs. Says Richard. "They are fast becoming the bane of a cleaner's life and are proving to be a challenge for the onsite maintenance teams too. What happens if the problem is ignored? It spreads. A ward or a room infested with bed bugs will escalate as staff and visitors move across the building. The bed bug infestation is not normally contained to the rooms at either side of the infested bedroom as it usually is in a hotel. It’s much more challenging to tackle because many areas are affected with no clear pattern of infestation. Early treatment is essential to prevent this insidious spread."


Pest control pointers

BPCA offers these tips if you are a hospital or healthcare establishment considering how best to approach your pest prevention and pest management strategy:

  • Invest in pest consultancy - don't treat pest control as a commodity to be bought in haste only after an outbreak has occurred. Be proactive. Seek professional expert advice. In doing so you will significantly reduce the risk of pest infestations. Make sure that pest control is included in your budget.
  • Ensure that each one of the buildings is surveyed by a qualified technician – one with relevant experience. A good surveyor will know the types of pests that pose a problem, where they are most likely to take hold and how they can be effectively prevented or managed. 
  • Introduce your maintenance teams to your pest control partner so that best practice can be shared and agreed. A combination of early detection training and making your team aware of the pest risk hotspots in your buildings and grounds ensure that any pest outbreak is contained.
  • For the same reasons, give your pest control provider the freedom to speak to your housekeeping and catering teams. Simple measures such as installing the latest fly killers for example can ensure your kitchen is virtually fly free.
  • Make sure that your suppliers work with a BPCA approved pest control provider. Pay close attention to supplies, checking for signs of any pests before accepting them.
  • Look upon your pest control provider as a trusted expert. Give as much unrestricted access as possible so that weak spots in your building and any lapses in best practise can be identified enabling corrective action to be taken swiftly. Your pest control provider knows where to look and will spot any early tell-tale signs that all is not well. 

"A robust pest control and pest prevention strategy, underpinned with thorough site surveys has to be the preferred alternative to fighting outbreaks on a regular basis," concludes Richard.