Bed bug problem in a Care Home – Home Counties
A major Housing Association called upon Rapid Environmental Services to investigate reports of insects in a residential Care Home in the Home Counties. On investigation the problem was diagnosed as a major bed bug infestation. The extent of the problem had to be identified, a treatment program implemented to deal with the problem, along with ongoing training of staff and monitoring of the rooms in a 50 flat block.
Bedbugs are being seen as an increasing problem in hotels and residential homes. They are transported between sites by a host, not necessarily on a human but most often in luggage, by moving furniture between sites or even between rooms in the same building. Bedbugs actually like clean and tidy places, so it is not hygiene or cleanliness issue, but more of a case of transport between rooms, sites and even countries.
The challenges faced were many:
- Define the the extent of the problem – was it only one room or the whole building, was there a risk to other care homes in the group and area
- How to tackle the problem of moving vulnerable people out of their home to execute a treatment
- Stopping residents moving clothes and other items between rooms during treatment cycles
- What treatment and monitoring regime needed to be implemented to ensure the problem is solved or give early warning of re-infestation
- Defining a quarantine process that works, ensuring reinfection is minimized but not disrupting lives too much
- Communicating to all persons concerned, including Residents, Carers, Staff, Cleaners, Housing Association stakeholders and Social Services
Rapid Environmental Services are very familiar in dealing with bedbug problems and understand the difficulty in eradicating these very resilient pests, so were the obvious choice to deal with this problem. Our experience in working with local authorities and housing associations allowed us to execute a solution, communicate effectively and understand the impact on the residents and their care.
Coordinating an operation like this is extremely complex, but once we established a working protocol which all parties bought into, the operation became manageable and reasonably easy to implement.
Firstly, we established the extent of the problem using specially trained “Sniffer Dogs”. The dogs identified problem areas and flats very quickly and effectively so we knew the size and extent of the problem in a fraction of the time it would have taken to manually search each room.
Using a floor plan, we identified all areas requiring treatment, then set about relocating the residents to allow treatment to commence. Heat treatment was considered, and it is proven to be very effective, however it would mean closing down the whole building for at least a week so it was disregarded as not achievable in this case.
This left spray and steam treatments, but first each room had to be packed up, all items treated and bagged, with all clothes being washed or tumbled at high heat. Rapid Environmental Services deployed a team of packers to do this as the residents and care staff could not do it effectively in the time frames required.
Once the treatment was completed in each flat, a period of monitoring was implemented before the resident could return and unpack. We used both active and passive monitors to provide this.
When a block of rooms were completed, the residents could be moved back, but first they had to go through a quarantine process where all clothes were exchanged on re-entry to the building for clean and bedbug free clothes.
All visitors also had to be informed of the problem and what signs to look for if they suspected they were harboring bedbugs; we also trained all cleaners, care staff and health workers in the signs to look for as they went about their activities on a daily basis.
The immediate problem was solved over a period of weeks, and then ongoing monitoring was implemented with monitors being left in all rooms and common areas. A pest management agreement was put in place with regular reporting and reviews to ensure the problem was managed. No outbreaks were reported, but a few false alarms have been raised over the last 18 months, showing this process was working very effectively in solving the problem.
Both the Care Home and the Council staff were delighted with the performance of our teams, the solution provided and the execution of the project, as well as the ongoing monitoring we provide.