1. Military

Rat droppings found in James A. Haley VA Medical Center

Published Mar. 14, 2013

TAMPA — Rat droppings were found in a storage room of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in an area between two wings of the hospital with patient rooms, the hospital confirmed Wednesday.

Karen Collins, a Haley spokeswoman, said the droppings, discovered at 6 p.m. Tuesday, were from "old rodent activity" on the fourth floor of the Tampa facility in a room containing "nursing station supplies such as carts and equipment." Maintenance workers found the droppings after removing ceiling tiles in the room.

Haley, she said, does not have an ongoing pest problem.

"We have 37 traps in and around the building that we're using," Collins said. "At this time, the rats are only being caught outside the building. None have been found inside for quite some time . . . The room was terminally cleaned and the floors were stripped and waxed."

Patient care at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, she said, has not been impacted. "As a precautionary measure, any potentially contaminated items were immediately disposed of or sanitized," Collins said.

Collins did not know when a rat was last seen inside the hospital, but she said the facility's pest-control plan has alleviated any problem.

"The plan is working," she said, noting pest control workers concluded the rat droppings were "dried and old."

Collins said infection-control officials at Haley also have been notified.

"Infection control has found nothing to be concerned with at this time regarding the room or supplies," Collins said. "James A. Haley veterans' hospital takes the health of our patients seriously and works very hard to maintain cleanliness standards."

A Cape Coral soldier's family complained about the lack of cleanliness at Haley in 2010, prompting an investigation by the VA's Medical Inspector's Office. The office made several recommendations, including additional staff training and filling vacancies in Haley's environmental management office.

In 2006, Haley officials canceled several surgeries after flies were seen in the hospital operating-room suite. Haley officials said at the time that spoiled food from an employee's locker attracted the flies. Haley sent out a staff memo reminding workers that they should properly store and discard food.

Rats and roaches were a problem at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. exposed by the Washington Post in 2007. Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., told reporters at the time, "Rats and cockroaches don't burrow and infest overnight."

William R. Levesque can be reached at or (813) 226-3432.