Friday, 9 October 2009

It’s enough to drive you batty

Oh my God! I don’t think I’m going to sleep a wink tonight after reading an article I’ve just stumbled across on the BBC’s news website. It seems that bats have been discovered flying freely around a Dundee hospital. To be more precise, the bats have taken up residence in a general medical and surgical ward at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.

As I’ve said before, we have a few vampire bats round here, but they're the phlebotomists (or the brides of Dracula as they're known) who turn up at your bedside to gouge craters out of your arm as they harvest blood for testing. A couple of them vaporised in my room yesterday and almost started fighting over me. They both had hold of an arm each… but that's a story for another day!

Let’s return to the bats. In the course of a year, Tayside Health Authority has squandered more than £11,000 trying to rid its hospitals of these sinister flying rodents. It must have been very scary for the patients sharing the wards with the bats; just imagine the mental scarring caused by one of those flapping up your nightdress or slithering down your jim jams.

But it’s not just bats that the hospital has a spot of bother with. A whole menagerie of wildlife has taken up residence in Tayside’s hospitals. Pest controllers had to be called in to deal with infestations of mice, cockroaches and rats on no fewer than 462 separate occasions, .

Mice were also discovered in the kitchen and dining room of Stracathro Hospital as well as in the main kitchen of Ashludie Hospital in Monifieth. Now, I know mice aren’t all that fussy about their grub, but they’d have to be bloody desperate to get stuck into your average plate of hospital food. I mean, there are one or two dishes round here that could scare the shit out of penicillin; even mould and bacteria won’t go near them in case they catch something. I swear if there were a nuclear holocaust tomorrow, the two things left upright on this earth would be cockroaches and our chef’s spotted dick.

To compound Tayside's misery, rats were found living on a ward at Little Cairnie Hospital in Arbroath while other creepy crawlies on the loose included cockroaches, ants, flies, silverfish, beetles, wasps and hornets. As if that weren’t enough, cockroaches were also found feasting in the dining room of Sunnyside Hospital in Montrose, while maggots were spotted in a nearby corridor, making their way to the hospital’s kitchen; I imagine they were probably on their way to clock on for a shift. Meanwhile, in Perth's Royal Infirmary's kitchen, silverfish were discovered scuttling around the food preparation area. Amazing! And to think that some people say there’s isn't enough protein in NHS food!

However, for me, perhaps the best bit of the story is this particularly dry quote from Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association: "This is totally unacceptable. We've got enough trouble with MRSA and Clostridium difficile without having foreign bodies running around. Patients are frightened enough to go into hospital without knowing there are rats and mice and cockroaches.”

In reply, Scotland's Public Health Minister, Shona Robison, insisted that NHS Tayside had 'robust' procedures in place to tackle infestations.

Not robust enough… obviously.


  1. we quite often get birds flying in through the windows and I hate it. I usually grab the dogs blanket and crawl to open the windows wide and then crawl outside. Last year a bat came down the chimney and I didn't realise until the dog ran to the door to be let out (he's really brave my husband calls him the wuss dog - barks at anyone coming up the drive but then runs a mile if they say boo). I am sorry but I hit it with the poker and threw my cardi over it and then managed somehow to throw it outside, then light the fire fast just in case it wanted to come back. I love living in the countryside but I am happier to have wildlife outside rather than in with me. There are no doubt many people who will say live and let live but I think it applies to me to I don't want to be paying for wildlife to share my comfort, they can live their lives and leave me alone to live mine. If I thought I was going to be offered a bed in a hospital where there was the possibility of a bat calling round to see me there is no given way I'd go in unless I was tranquillised. I hope you don't have that to contend with as well TM, they might even decide to eat your meals and that would be a true tradgedy!!
    This time I will sign off as a bat hater
    LOL the WV is sureel

  2. poor you...well anyway, cheer up...even though the meals are terrifying.

  3. Oh TM, don't be scared of bats. European bats do not eat blood nor do they nest in your hair. That's just a legend from the times before the pill, when grannies used to tell their granddaughters: "You must be at home before sunset or else the bats will get at you." Not that it helped much, because contracepiton would have to work during daytime as well, but that's another story. Bats, on the other hand, are an indicator of an unpolluted environment and they eat 2000 or 3000 insects a night who would otherwise bite you. And they produce a vast amount of dung which can be sold for a king's ransom to gardeners. You might just start to save bat's dung for next year's giant pumpkin growing project in order to save money - or else you could sell it to the NHS in exchange of salmon bagels?
    Greetings from Styria! Barbara

  4. Had one in my bedroom once. The litte bugger flew round and round with me SCREAMING in my bed. Aged 25 or so. Shudder. Might be harmless enough but sure scared the NHS food out of me.

  5. i love bats. They are soooo cute! BUT, not indoors and most certainly not in a major hospital.

    Scottish hospitals have had some major issues this year. One operating theatre in Aberdeen had to be closed due to small creatures in the air conditioning ducts I think it was.

    I must say tho, the only place I have worked that had problems was a nursing home. There problem was ants! Ants everywhere. In the kitchen in the clients rooms. It was horrid!

    Perhaps the hospitals who have these problems prvide a better standard of food than you are getting?

    Perhaps, the reason hospitals provide such rubbish in place of food is actually a pest control inovation?

    Hope you managed some sleep.

  6. We have bats quite close to home, well two houses away to be precise. The family there are not concerned about them at all but I sometimes watch them coming out at dusk behind closed windows !

    Take care TM


  7. Hello
    Hey this looks quite scary.Thank you very much for sharing sun information about vampire bats and of course thanx for sharing this photo with us.


  8. Katharine Stanley9 October 2009 at 11:46

    Hello Traction Man. I have just become Plaster Cast Woman, having broken my ankle on Tuesday morning by falling down 1 measly stair. As I am now lying in state on my sofa with my leg up, my thoughts naturally turned to you, lying in your bed with presumably both legs up! My sympathies. There are no bats in my house, but my labrador keeps running away with my crutches, which is somewhat inconvenient. I hope your food is somewhat better today. My husband has had to take over the cooking duties during my incapacity, and I have been pleasantly surprised! My best wishes to you and my hopes for your speedy recovery. Keep making us all laugh! Katharine "Plaster Cast Girl" Stanley.

  9. Oh, dear - and bats are a protected species!
    Ninewells is near the water and will attract a lot of the much feared and ferocious Scottish midge, so bats are a "good thing" to have here. The one in your photo is a vampire bat - not likely to be found in Dundee. I like bats:>)

  10. The photo is of a phlebotomist!

  11. WRT the quote from Margaret Watt, could those 'foreign bodies' be illegal immigrant zombies?

  12. I think the sausages are on the Geneva Convention's list of banned weapons..

  13. Frightening isn't it. They'll have to drag me screaming into a hospital up here.

    As for "robust" plans - that's the only word some of these managementspeak people know. Everything is "robust". Makes them feel important when they say it.

    Cynical? Moi?

  14. TM, shouldn't that be 'phleBATomist'?

  15. There also used to be loads of rabbits at Stracathro aswell... I was always told by my fellow colleagues who went there...

  16. Ninewells is on a hill, so should be safe from the midgies. Having experienced the 'joys' of Ninewells (the food was so bad I didn't eat for the 2 days I was there) I can honestly say that bats flying round the ward would have been an improvement. They could provide entertainment and a valuable insect-eating service. The care at Ninewells, however, is quite good. Perth Royal Infirmary, however, is infinitely worse: a charnel house. People I know (2 of them) have died there from negligence. Others have been seriously damaged, including my husband. And the food is even worse.
    A small example (I'll spare you the really heartrending stuff) my husband was in there for a minor orthopaedic procedure, he had to go in a day early as he is diabetic. I went in after the op and found him completely out of it, turned out his blood sugar was so low the tester couldn't read it. I asked a nurse for help, some biscuits, sweets, anything....she said they didn't have anything like that and produced a plain, unsweetened yogurt. She point blank refused to find anyone else to help. I should add that I was in no way rude, aggressive or 'shouty', I was far too worried for that. Luckily I was able to get hold of a chocolate bar thanks to the kind volunteer ladies in the hospital shop. As soon as Himself was vaguely mobile I took him home.