Rat infestation at DOH spreading illness, disease

Rat infestation at DOH spreading illness, disease
Updated: Mar. 19, 2015 at 7:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Department of Health employees say they're getting sick from unsanitary working conditions at their office, caused by an infestation of rats.

An employee who did not want to be identified says supervisors are aware of the problem, but have told staffers there's no funding to address it.

"We'll find rat urine, rat feces on our desk. Any droppings, anything that they ate is on our desk," the employee said. "We had someone sitting down and the rat blatantly ran across her foot into the other room. We work for the Department of Health and it's like...ironic."

The employee says the problem is not only disgusting, but also unsafe for other employees.

"It's getting so bad where everybody has allergies. We have respiratory problems. We have one where she breaks out in hives. It's affecting everybody's health there."

The employee said exterminations suddenly started up last week, after another staff member posted a picture of a dead rat on social media.

Health Department officials say they're trying to be proactive and have laid out traps at the facility.

"For a couple of years we have actually been taking measures to try to control these vectors as best we can," explained Stan Michels of the Health Department.

Officials say the office, which is on the ground of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, is almost 80 years old, but there's not another location for the employees to work at this time.

Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility administrator Mark Patterson stated that they were not able to do any type of capital improvement at this point.

"We work with what we have and try to keep up, maintain the buildings and upkeep them the best we can," Patterson said.

The anonymous employee says more needs to be done to address the cause of the infestation, as well as the horrendous smell of rat unrine and droppings that are left behind.

"The employees are taking it upon themselves to come in on the weekends to clean the rugs so that they don't have to smell it," the employee said. "They don't have to breathe it in, that shouldn't be our responsibility. We should be able to go to work in a clean, healthy environment."

Health Department officials say they have an ongoing contract for pest control and routinely come out when called.

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