For the Veterans Affairs Department, the warm months of summer mean one thing: Time to call the exterminator. Bats, rats and other pests are turning VA facilities into their summer homes.
The recent discovery of dead bats in trashcans led the Eastern Kansas VA Hospital in Leavenworth to shut down operating rooms and postpone 16 surgeries until next week.
While the hospital is no stranger to bat infestations, as many as 100 bats were found this time, a hospital employee told 41 KSHB News Wednesday.
Jim Gleisberg, spokesperson for the facility, said the hospital is dealing with the ongoing problem by using devices "where the bats can leave but cannot re-enter." Officials at the hospital are conducting air quality tests to make sure the facility conditions are safe after exterminators removed all of the bats, Gleisberg told 41 KSHB.
But that's hardly the only VA health care facility with a pest problem.
The James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida, had "dead rats falling from the kitchen ceiling" last month in addition to cockroaches found on patients' trays. Two months earlier, facilities management services "filled multiple buckets with roaches, dead rats and feces," the Tampa Bay Times reported.
However, the fact that dead rats — rather than live ones — are now being seen indicates the extermination practices at Haley "are working," spokeswoman Karen Collins told Tampa Bay Times June 22.
VA centers have been under scrutiny ever since news broke last April that veterans were dying while waiting for care, specifically at the Phoenix VA.
Shortly after, incidents at the Philadelphia VA sparked a 10-month investigation that revealed employees were working in unsafe and vermin-infested conditions, in addition to deplorable acts — such as thousands of neglected or unanswered inquiries — detrimental to veterans and their proper care.
The VA is "making progress, we're making improvements, but we're not where we need to be yet," Secretary Robert McDonald told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Monday.