THE worrying rat infestation at the stores department of the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) made its way into the Parliament on Friday afternoon, with Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh saying there is no immediate danger to staff or patients as a result.
In response to questions from Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh, Deyalsingh said the area where the problem has been identified is a warehouse far removed from the clinical blocks.
“So patients are under no direct threat.”
He said no drugs were stored in the warehouse. Items like paper towels and dry goods are kept in this storeroom, he said, and there has always been a protocol in place to sanitise products from the warehouse to the wards.
“That will be stepped in this particular case, so I can tell you there is no immediate danger to either patients or staff.”
Deyalsingh said staff employed in the department and who would have direct access to the items on which the rats would have touched would be tested to ensure they had not contracted any of the six diseases rats can spread, including leptospirosis and meningitis.
In response to the possibility of the rodents migrating to other parts of the hospital, Deyalsingh said the public health department had been sent in to do a total examination of the entire facility to ensure there was no migration to create a bigger problem.
Former health minister Dr Fuad Khan questioned him about disciplinary action to be taken against any person or people with responsibility for taking preventative measures.
Deyalsing said the answer was yes, and the board of the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) will take action if the responsibility can be traced to individuals or groups of individuals, following proper HR and IR policies and procedures.
Newsday reported on Friday that for the past three to four weeks, rats have been running wild in the stores department, where items are kept for distribution to the rest of the hospital and sometimes the region served by the RHA.
Workers expressed fear of contracting rat-borne diseases and have been using gowns, gloves and shoes normally worn by operating theatre staff to protect themselves. They said while the rat droppings were visible, they could not trace the items on which the rats had urinated.
They also expressed fear about the transfer of germs to wards and other areas through the distribution of boxes in which the items are stored.
At the last sitting of the House of Representatives, Deyalsingh apologised to the families of deceased people after complaints that a non-functioning refrigerator at the mortuary had resulted in bodies decomposing.
Earlier this year, there was also a total blackout at the SFGH, and critically ill patients had to be evacuated. There were no reported injuries or deaths.