A RAT infestation in the stores department at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) may be putting patients and staff at risk.
This department, a short distance away from the accident and emergency department, stocks stationery, hardware, medical and engineering supplies for distribution throughout the hospital and sometimes even the region.
Items are stored on pallets and workers say for the past three to four weeks rats have been running wild, leaving their droppings and urine on the stores.
A private pest control company was brought in on Wednesday to spray and sanitise the department, but on Thursday morning there were signs that the rats were still present.
There are about 40 employees in this department, and one who spoke to the Newsday on behalf of the others said workers are now wearing gowns, gloves and shoes normally worn by theatre staff to protect themselves.
The worker said they are scared because they run the risk of contracting leptospirosis, a bacterial infection caused by rat urine.
“There is constant movement in this department. We have a very active receiving and a dispatch area.
"The items are stored in boxes on pallets, so we don’t know what is on top of these boxes when we pull them down. We can see the rat droppings, but we cannot see the urine when it is dried.”
Stocks of more than 200 differnt items, including paper towels, disposable cups, needles and gowns are stored in this department.
“Everything the hospital requires is stored here.
“When we send boxes to the wards or other departments, staff would not normally wear gloves to open these boxes, so whatever germs are on these boxes could spread to the person opening the boxes and maybe even on to the items stored inside.”
The worker said staff are now diligently checking the boxes for evidence of gnawing before dispatch.
“On Wednesday we were sent home early for a pest control company to spray and sanitise the area. However, when we came to work this morning (Thursday), there was evidence that the rats are still here. We saw evidence of where they ate and their droppings.
“If they pee on the floor or on the boxes we would not know, because that would dry up, so people are wearing gloves and protective gowns and shoes because we don’t know what we are walking on. We have to be very careful because we have to go home to our families at the end of the day.”
The employee said the pest control company has not been able to trace where the rats are coming from.
“Attempts were made to seal off the outside, but it is a recurring problem.”
Acting CEO Dr Albert Persaud said efforts are continuing to identify the source and eradicate the rodents. As far as he is aware, he said, the problem is concentrated in this department and has not spread to other parts of the hospital.
“It is not near to the wards, it is outlying. So there is no danger to patients, to food or kitchen or anything like that.”
He said, “We are almost on top of the problem. What I gather is that we have reduced the population of rodents. I expect within a day or two we would have eradicated them completely.”