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Bed Bugs at Hospitals?!

Heather Langone April 26, 2013

You may think, “An article about bed bugs? What does that have to do with health care?” The answer: the pesky critters are invading hospital beds. And unlike the Motel 6, if you are sick enough to be admitted, you probably can’t check out! According to an article run today in MarketWatch, hospitals are seeing twice the infestations! Isn’t too sterile for these bugs to live in that environment? Aren’t the bed sheets super-sanitized? Apparently, it doesn’t matter.

According to the article, the statistics aren’t good:

More than a third of pest-management companies treated bedbug infestations in hospitals in 2012, 6% more than the year before and more than twice as many as in 2010, according to a survey released today by the National Pest Management Association. The percentage of exterminators dealing with bedbugs in nursing homes has also almost doubled since 2010, to 46%. Bedbug experts also report seeing them in ambulances.

Far more interesting than simply the ‘gross-out factor,” is the fact that the Affordable Care Act has programs that have added incentives for hospitals to cut down on re-admission by reducing the risk of patient infections. The new agenda is quality over quantity. Certain hospitals will be subject to fines and penalties and/or reduced federal funding if they continue to have problems with re-admission due to infection or hospital error. In light of these changes, how will hospitals deal with a bed bug infestation? And if these bugs are reportedly in ambulances as well, how does one detect the source if and when assessing blame? While bedbugs have not been found to transmit infections to humans per se, they do leave itchy bites which can lead to secondary infections when victims scratch, allowing for other deadly bacteria that exists in hospitals, to be spread. According to the MarketWatch report, Dr. Jorge Parada, medical director of the infection prevention and control program of Loyola University Health System in Chicago, says that with regard to Staph infection known as MRSA, “You don’t need one more ingredient to increase your risk of infections in the hospital.”

Parada goes on to say,

We never know when somebody might show up with bedbugs…The high instance of bedbugs in nursing homes is also concerning because hospitals receive many transfers from such facilities, and elderly people often don’t exhibit the same telltale signs of bedbugs—red, raised, itchy lesions—that other patients do: It’s one less tipoff that it’s a problem.

So here is the essential question: Can you or your advocate ask before entering a hospital, Excuse me doctor, can I see your certificate of inspection for a sterile environment sans bed bugs?The same way one would ask for medical board accreditation?

Can’t the hospitals just get rid of all the beds and start over?

Or is that too simple of a solution?

photo by:


louento.pix

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