November 19, 2015 8:57 am
Updated: November 19, 2015 3:14 pm

Bedbugs add to “long list of ills” at the VG: Health minister

A bed bug found on a Halifax Transit bus forced one commuter to strip down in the snow and put their clothes in a trash bag.

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HALIFAX – A patient at the Victoria General Hospital, VG, is believed to have brought in the bedbugs that closed eight beds in the past few days.

RELATED: Glavine said VG hospital flood “put the pressure on” a replacement plan

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The pests were found Saturday in four beds on the fifth floor of the Centennial Building at the VG site. Then on Wednesday, bedbugs were found in four beds on the third floor. The fifth floor of the VG hosts the urology and ophthalmology departments. The third floor hosts the ear, nose and throat surgery department as well as general surgery.

Both rooms were fumigated and cleaned by housekeeping, and the health authority said there have been no reports of bedbugs since.

Patient Zero may be responsible

Brian Butt, the director of health services for the VG, said one individual may be responsible for the situation and the spread of bedbugs from one floor to another.

“The bugs probably traveled with the patients [from the fifth floor to the third],” he said.

Butt adds that the patient, who is still in hospital, will have his or her belongings professionally cleaned before being discharged.

Butt also said the room on the fifth floor was fumigated several times after the first attempt failed to rid the room completely of the pests.

“We did move patients in and noticed again there were more sightings so we again needed to relocate patients,” he said.

He said between six to eight patients were affected by the bedbug situation.

“There certainly was displacement. That’s unfortunate for patients and for families foremost. Certainly from a staff perspective, we do need to mobilize staff from one unit to another,” he said.

He said it is not uncommon for a site such as a hospital to have bedbugs.

“There’s high traffic volumes going through our building on a day-by-day basis. It is something that occurs in public, whether it’s in hotels or rooming houses or homes. There are bedbugs in our environment.”

Concerns about state of hospital

Donna Hemsworth visits the VG once every six months and describes the bedbug situation as “pretty horrifying”.

“I just think it’s totally unacceptable,” she said.

“It’s a situation where people won’t want to come to the hospital even if they do need and I think it has to be dealt with.”

Sheila McNeill said it is unnerving to know there are bedbugs in the building where her brother is a patient.

“It’s not very comforting. We’ve already made a decision not to take our coats off,” she said.

“Our brother is in there and he has cancer. We feel very, very bad that maybe there are bugs in his bed. We do not know.”

Hemsworth said she has worries about the building’s capabilities as a result of this issue and others in the past, such as rodents and the recent flood.

“It really affects healthcare,” she said.

“I think it’s just a very old building that’s part its prime.”

Other visitors to the hospital echoed Hemsworth’s thoughts.

“I think it’s about time they got a new building,” said Marion Backman, who was visiting her brother.

A spokesperson for the health authority said there were no surgery or procedural delays because of the bedbugs.

Butt said there are no reports of bedbugs in any other buildings in the health authority.

Future of the building

Bedbugs are just one of several issues the building has faced in recent months. There have been reports of rodents at the VG and there was a flood inside the Centennial Building in September.

“I think it’s fair to say, it’s common knowledge, we do have issues with this building,” Butt said.

“There is a great importance for us to move out of this building and into a different location.”

Butt said talks have been ongoing between the health authority and the province on the future of the VG and constructing a new building.

Health Minister Leo Glavine admits there are a multitude of problems with the VG and re-emphasized the province is working on a long-term fix.

“We can only go at the pace in terms of planning that is done,” he said.

“It adds to the long list of ills that have occurred in this building. This is why very shortly we will let Nova Scotians know what the plan is for the hospital.”

Glavine said the plan for the VG won’t be released until the end of the month at the earliest.

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