Every Tuesday, Allen Isdell and Anthony Hutto station themselves inside a set of sliding doors leading into Georgia Regents Medical Center to watch as paper couriers, flower deliverers and luggage-carrying visitors pass through the hospital.
The two Augusta exterminators look for items that regularly harbor insects and search for ways to protect the hospital from the medical records, plants and packages that are popular among germ-carrying pests.
“Insects do not care whether it is a hospital, home or apartment,” said Isdell, a co-owner of A&R Exterminating, Inc. “If they want to get inside, they will find a way.”
According to a survey by the Association for the Healthcare Environment, ants, flies, roaches and bed bugs are the most challenging pests for health care facilities.
The survey released last week asked directors and managers from 150 hospitals nationwide about sustainability practices, pest management challenges and areas of their facilities that experience the most pest activity.
Three of five respondents said ants are the most difficult pests to manage, followed by flies, cockroaches and bed bugs – the same rundown from 2012.
Chris Miller, the director of facility support services at Georgia Regents Medical Center, said flies are the hospital’s biggest nuisance.
“Just with our automatic exterior doors constantly opening and closing, flies seem to find their way in the hospital more than any other pest, even ants, which are the next-popular pest we have to combat on a regular basis,” Miller said.
Though pest control is a “very manageable problem,” Miller said it is an ongoing issue at Georgia Regents, especially in the warmer months.
The hospital uses bait boxes, bug lights and air curtains to clear pest hot spots such as entrances, employee break rooms, garbage areas, storage closets and delivery zones.
Isdell and Hutto said they also inspect Serenity Behavioral Health Systems, the East Central Regional Hospital’s Gracewood campus and all Georgia Regents facilities.
“We try to limit the amount of insecticide we use due to the sensitive environment of hospitals,” Isdell said.
When exterminators leave, Jimmy Taylor, Georgia Regents Medical Center’s electrical manager, said his staff monitors fly traps to see what type of flies they are catching and develop a strategy to stop the pests.
“One fly can get into a certain area, and it may not seem like a big deal, but one fly can create serious problems,” Taylor said.
At Trinity Hospital, little black ants are the most commonly reported pest, Marketing Director Rachel Covar said, adding that a Steritech pest prevention specialist monitors the campus weekly.
At the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, the Fort Gordon Department of Public Works sprays regularly for pests but tries to keep the pesticides away from patient care areas, said Public Affairs Officer Wes Elliott.
“The only pest-related issue we have had in the last few years has been lady bugs making their way into the facility when their numbers are high,” Elliott said.
Officials at each of the hospitals said their extermination teams try to stay ahead of any pest problem.
“We have a very effective program, and our patients, visitors and staff do not have any need to be worried,” Georgia Regents’ Miller said. “Our program is more preventative than it is reactionary.”