By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
I grew up in the shadow of the United States Public Health Hospital system. From 1953 until 1970, my grandmother was the Executive Housekeeper at the USPH hospital in Seattle, and she ran a tight ship. The hospital had 16 stories, and was originally built to care for Marines. I promise you, all 16 of those stories were “spit-n-shine” with Kentucky-born-and-bred Mary McAuliffe White at the helm. When I became aware that a VA Hospital urgent care center in New Hampshire had been shut down because of a bed bug infestation, I must admit I thought of my “Grammy.” This would have never happened on her watch, even if she had had to go after the bugs herself, bug by bug, and bed by bed.

Having lived in more than one third-world situation, I know firsthand that infestations can occur even in places where hygiene and maintenance are good. But, last I checked, New Hampshire is not a third-world or even a second-world location; it is a first-world scenario experiencing third-world problems, and our veterans are getting the really short end of the stick.

It was the New Hampshire Public Radio affiliate that announced that the clinic was closed after bed bugs were found out in the waiting room. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the little critters were also in an examining room. The facility was located in the city of Manchester, N.H.

In true “pass-the-buck” style, the hospital director, a man by the name of Al Montoya, said that the situation couldn’t be considered “an emergency,” and the patients were transferred to another facility to be treated. As of this writing, no comment had been made to the VA by the hospital’s pest control service. While Mr. Montoya might have been technically correct as to what constitutes an emergency, the idea of bed bugs being anywhere near our vets makes me see red.

When I was in Iraq, we were living in tents, and let me tell you, Vector Control was completely on top of keeping us pest free in a combat zone. We weren’t even supposed to pour out old coffee on the gravel for two reasons: one was that someone was worried about the rocks getting stained (I kid you not), but more importantly, the sugar and creamer in old coffee could cause fly infestations. Speaking of flies in New Hampshire, back in July of 2017, the Boston Globe wrote an article alleging that the operating room at the Manchester facility was infested with flies, and that surgical instruments were used that had not been sterilized. There was another generalized accusation that patients were not being treated properly.

The Manchester clinic is the only VA facility in the entire state, and my question is, how hard can it be to keep one clinic bed bug free? May the task force that has been assigned “to investigate and recommend changes” be with the vets. And, may my Grammy not be rolling over in her grave.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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