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Contributed by Orkin, LLC.

Healthcare settings are just as unique as the patient care they deliver. But one thing they have in common – from small hospitals and physicians’ offices to long-term care facilities and outpatient centers – is that they are extremely sensitive environments with zero tolerance for pests. Each setting requires a different strategy to address the unique challenges associated with both the building and its surrounding environment.

Long-term care facility mangers agree that providing a healthy environment for residents is a top priority. And preventing pests is big part of that mission. Prevention is key because pests pose serious health threats through the contamination of surfaces, medical supplies and equipment. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is essential to address the areas and underlying conditions that attract pests and allow them to thrive.

The best way to prevent pest problems at long-term care facilities is to understand why they are an attractive setting to many pests. There are many kinds of pests that find a way into these locations. Typical pests include:

 • Bed bugs – residents typically bring their belongings into facilities, which can transfer these pests to your property. Elderly adults tend to have less reaction to bites, so an introduction may go unchecked.

 • Mosquitoes – they not only bite patients and cause allergic reactions at times, but also carry diseases like West Nile virus. Often, elderly patients are more susceptible to these infections when compared to younger populations and have more difficulty recovering.

 • Stored product pests – such as grain beetles and pantry moths, can infest food that is left in the kitchen area found in typical resident rooms.

 • Cockroaches – which can startle and disgust residents and families, are more alarming to nursing home administrators. Cockroaches carry germs that can cause pneumonia, diarrhea and food poisoning, and their droppings (or cast skins) can also inflame allergies or asthmatic conditions.

Other common pests found in long-term care facilities include:
 • Biting or stinging pests
 • Rodents
 • Flies
 • Ants

Long-term care facilities have many different environments in which pests can enter, hide and thrive. But each unique location brings its own set of challenges. From patient living spaces to kitchen and laundry areas, do you know where the pest “pain” points are in your operation?

Resident/Patient Living Areas
In patient rooms and private living areas, the battle against pests includes managing stored or disposed food, as well as maintaining general cleanliness. Staff tasked with regular cleaning and maintenance duties of resident rooms must proactively check for food and crumbs left out for extended periods of time (and also have a keen eye for detecting hidden pests such as bed bugs).

Medical employees must also constantly check healthcare tools and supplies for pests or signs of their activity. Regular and thorough cleaning of the residents’ living space is the best guard against pests, especially because the patients’ weakened immune systems should not be exposed to the diseases and pathogens that pests can transmit (nor do they need the stress and lack of sleep caused by pests).

Kitchens and Dining Room
The kitchen and dining areas of a long-term care facility can be hot spots for all types of pests. These areas provide the three things pests need to survive: food, water and shelter. And they won’t think twice about eating their meals at the same place as your residents. So be sure that all food is put away in containers, and spills (even water), are cleaned up immediately.

Other Pest “Hot Spots”
Areas that are not regularly inspected by employees or residents can become major “hot spots” for pest activity. Storage and janitorial areas are prime examples, since they don’t undergo regular cleanings (and are often times the source of small fly infestations). The laundry room can be an ideal area for pests to setup camp in clothes and linens. Following a strict cleaning schedule for these areas is important and should be a top priority, even if these areas are not accessible to the residents.

Finding the right approach to handling pets is a complex process and is best left to professionals. But in the meantime, here are a few cleaning and maintenance tips you can implement to help your environments remain pest-free:

•    Regularly inspect the exterior of your facility for any holes or gaps. Caulk any cracks and crevices on the exterior of the building to prevent pests from entering.
•    Keep vegetation around the building trimmed back a couple of feet from your building and clean up leaves and sticks.
•    Add door sweeps and weather stripping to close any gaps.
•    Make sure that all doors close tightly at all times.
•    Install ultraviolet light traps (e.g. fly lights) near service doors and loading docks (on the interior of the building) to catch any flying insects that sneak through open doors.

Shipments & Storage Areas
•    Inspect shipments for pests or evidence of pests such as droppings, chew marks or exoskeletons (shed skins) before bringing them in a receiving area.
•    Make sure your vendors are taking steps to prevent pests by inspecting and treating shipments while in transit or storage.
•    Unpack shipments and dispose of any empty boxes before bringing them indoors.
•    Keep cleaning supplies off the floor and in a janitorial closet.
•    Keep storage racks a few inches from the wall (to allow for inspection of areas behind them).
•    Install fly lights or glue traps in areas with high pest activity.

•    Make sure floors are cleaned regularly and free of litter, food and other debris.
•    Vacuum, sweep and mop all floors in sensitive areas on a daily basis.
•    Inspect and clean floor drains on a regular basis. Flies will feed and breed in unclean drains.
•    Cover and seal bulk food-storage containers and garbage containers.
•    Keep trash cans lined and empty them regularly.
•    Make sure food isn’t left out in the kitchen or employees’ lockers overnight. 

As a healthcare facility manger, patient and employee safety is your number one priority, and you can help treat the causes of pest problems by making your facility unattractive to pests in the first place. Discuss with your pest professional what pest management options are available, and work to implement an IPM plan that stresses ongoing sanitation, pest monitoring and prevention.

Tim Husen is Technical Services Manager for Orkin. A board-certified entomologist specializing in urban entomology, he has more than a decade of experience in the industry.