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Apr 27, 2015

Rodents Take Over Western Regional Hospital, Rats Infest Food Storage Unit

There are rats at the Western Regional Hospital – a lot of rats – big rats, medium-sized rats and little baby rats – entire rat families. But it’s no laughing matter, because those rats were found in the room where food supplies are stored at the Western Regional Hospital…food supplies which the kitchen, located right next door, uses to prepare meals for patients, doctors and interns. Like we said – no laughing matter! It’s actually a very disturbing situation which has management at the WRH running around like…well, like rats without heads. News Five was on the story today and we warn you that some of the images are disturbing – especially if you’ve recently eaten food prepared at the Western Regional Hospital.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

These are pictures taken on Friday of the room where the Western Regional Hospital stores food. It caused a major stir on Friday when the infestation was discovered, quite by accident, by a member of staff. That led to a rat killing frenzy. But it’s about more than rats. The room is in shocking condition – holes in the ceilings and walls, grimy, filthy floors – just a mess. So how does something like this happen at the region’s premier health facility? Regional Health Manager Melinda Guerra says somebody slipped down.


Melinda Guerra

Melinda Guerra, Regional Manager

“You see the persons who are supposed to be carrying out their duties, their diligent duties here were not doing it, so we just have to admit and be honest to the public that it was not being done. However there is a learning lesson not only for us but for the entire public – to see that when you have a rat problem you have to be on top of things.”


Lesson learnt, so we should all just move on, right? Well not so fast. According to Guerra they’ve known about the problem before this…they just never did anything about it. But now, especially since the pictures have hit the social media, the facility is just a bustle of activity.


Melinda Guerra

“We took an inspection probably like a month ago, and we identified that there were some rats coming in, and from that time to now we have the inspector inspecting the place but as I said before definitely they slipped down on their supervision. As soon as we identified the problem I have my Public Health Inspector who wrote a report. Already they are fumigating the place…they are setting traps in place, closing the holes…as you can see there were some holes here and they have closed them. They have closed the holes in the ceiling, so that has taken place…especially the sides…some of them were down. So we are doing the best that we can.”


That right there is probably very little consolation, especially if you’ve had occasion to eat food prepared in the kitchen of the Western Regional Hospital. It’s actually a very serious health concern – since diseases carried by rats can kill humans.


Marvin Manzanero

Marvin Manzanero, Interim Head, Epidemiology Unit

“The immediate concern would be any gastro-intestinal diseases that rats could convey. The two more serious ones if you will, salmonelosis and leptospirosis, would be concerns in terms of what rats can give humans. There are some viral hemorrhagic fevers that rats can also be vectors of so those would be the concerns.”


Melinda Guerra

“We know this is one of our high risk areas in the sense that the food was stored here. Of course most of the food was stored in closed containers so we feel quite…I would just like to say that it is quite right to say that the food has been stored in a safe place because from here we move it over to the kitchen, so the food more or less is safe.”


Marvin Manzanero

“Anywhere where there is a rat…the fact that the rat can contaminate with its mouth, saliva, faeces, urine…you wouldn’t know what the rat is actually doing with the specific containers.”


Today, the Ministry of Health has gotten involved and there are plans to clean out the place, which contains sagging, dirty shelves and lockers with the doors hanging on the hinges. It’s all that can be done to address the situation at this point, but it is shocking to imagine that it got to this.


Marvin Manzanero

“Clean…I mean clean and free of rodents, roaches, anything. I mean it’s just like at home you would…there’s no difference. If at all you would expect it to be even cleaner or in more sanitary conditions because you have sick patients that you are taking care of.”


So who is ultimately responsible, or at least accountable? Hospital Administrator Bernadette Nicholson has taken full responsibility, but that doesn’t mean anyone will face the music for the tune which called the rats.


Melinda Guerra

“When it comes to repercussions, now, as I mentioned before I think we need to take a team approach rather than just blaming somebody right now…take the team approach and see how best to upgrade this place.”


And with all that, here’s a final word of assurance from the top manager at the Western Regional Hospital.


Melinda Guerra

“What I can assure the public is that usually one of the complications of rat faeces or rat urine is leptospirosis. We just want to assure the public that none of our staff members has come down with leptospirosis and so far none of our patients.”


We hope that makes you feel a whole lot better. Mike Rudon for News Five.


Just as an aside, we note that Regional Manager Guerra claimed today that she immediately notified the Ministry of Health about the situation in the storage room on Friday. However, we have been reliably informed from Ministry sources that she didn’t, and in fact only revealed information as a result of continuous queries from the Ministry after the information leaked to the media.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “Rodents Take Over Western Regional Hospital, Rats Infest Food Storage Unit”

  1. Timber says:

    I’m yet to hear these idiots say that the entire hospital will be irrigated, disinfected, and ALL that food discarded. They are only naming a couple of the diseases that rodents carry. Let’s start with Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome which is carried by inhaling dust carried by rat urine or poop. Cutaneous Leishmaniasis which is carried by an infected sandfly , which would be common in Belize. Now this is my field, so I can talk. Where did these idiots get their education? Instead of stealing money and PetroCaribe this and that, this government ought to be investing in higher education.

  2. Belizean says:

    At this day and age?? Come on people, really? Rats? And no one will be punished for this? Oh boy, am I ever so sure I aint going to that hospital ever!

  3. Karen says:

    To the person who would never go to the Western Regional Hospital, I am not sure you will have very many choices which hospital to go unless you can pay the big fees at private hospitals. Hantavirus is a frequent human killer in Panama as I have read on the news. With that kind of infestation why would it be any different. To get to that level of infested, it happens over a long time so the checking never really happened at all. Sucks to hear this kind of news coming out of our healthcare institution.

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