Nova Scotia home help nurses stop visiting client with bed bugs

by nobugsonme on June 12, 2008 · 6 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs and health, canada

The Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has ceased home health visits for a client while his home is treated for bed bugs. According to the Chronicle Herald:

The Victorian Order of Nurses has put home care on hold for a client living in a Halifax public housing complex because of bedbugs in his apartment, the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority said Wednesday.

“We did confirm with VON that they have put (service to) one client in Ahern Manor on hold because of bedbugs,” said Pat Lawrence, director of the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority, which oversees the Gottingen Street highrise.

“What I can tell you is when we got the report about the bedbugs, we did send our pest control company in right away. They fumigated there last Friday and they’re going in again today. They may have already been there just to re-inspect and to continue treatment if need be.”

When asked whether the bedbugs were confined to one or two apartments, Ms. Lawrence said the pests are a problem all over North America.

“What I guess I could say is . . . if we get a report, we immediately begin treatment,” she said. “We’ve tried to do education sessions, certainly, with our tenants and our staff about prevention and in treating bedbugs. It appears to me there are two apartments (with bedbugs) on the same floor, and we’re treating both of them.”

I am disturbed by this news item. Despite Victorian Order of Nurses official Dawn MacIsaac’s protests later in the article that VON is not “refusing to provide services or refusing to go into a home or that type of thing,” that appears to be what they are doing.

Service providers who visit people in their homes are unfortunately at risk of catching bed bugs.

What VON may not recognize is that they are also at risk of contracting bed bugs in homes where they cannot see obvious signs of bed bugs. Therefore, the organization needs to train its employees on how to take steps to reduce the chances of catching bed bugs — and to avoid taking them from one client to another.

And for cases like this one, humane treatment suggests finding a way to provide services to a person with an active bed bug infestation, whether that means getting him taken to another location for his normal treatment, or sending in nurses with Tyvek suits and training on avoiding bed bugs. The client with bed bugs is likely suffering physical and emotional repercussions of living with bed bugs, and in my opinion, now needs good health care from a friendly and supportive visitor more than ever.

I hope the VON gets assistance in creating a bed bug prevention plan from an entomologist who specializes in bed bugs.

I am glad that the client in question is getting pest control treatment, but I would hope the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority was not just treating those two units, but carefully inspecting the entire building, keeping in mind that bed bug infestations can be difficult to detect.

1 Winston O. Buggy June 12, 2008 at 8:36 pm

I must say that while it is important to deliver services to those afflicted by bbs for as you put it, they are in need of good health care and a supportive visit I have dealt with a number of folks who make home visits and some are more concerned about putting themselves at risk than visiting a client. I won’t go into which agencies but I have done training for about eight groups and it is a big concern. While some easy tips help in many conditions like limiting where you sit, keep your jacket in a clothing bag. Keep files and case folder in sealed case etc. In some cases it is just overwhelming especially f you have a low insect threshold to begin with. In cases especially with elderly or clients with other issues, there is no one to help prepare apartments for treatment, so it just continues unabated. While I have recommended Tyvek suites in some cases the response has been that they are hazmat suites and that does not fit the job description and only underscores for some why they should not have to go. BTW, have you ever worn a Tyvek for 30 minutes in the summer with no AC. I think some agency or entrepreneur should develop a bonded central BB response team who can prep these locations for treatment and provide for the required logistics.

2 parakeets June 13, 2008 at 8:54 am

This disturbs me. Visting nurses would not be allowed to refuse to go to a home where a patient had AIDS would they? No, they would be trained to take precautions. It should be the same with bedbugs.

Of all the things that happened to me during my bedbug saga, one of the must hurtfull was when a health professional refused to continue treating me once he found out I had bedbugs.

I have compassion for thus patient whom the visitng nurses won’t see. I’ve been there.

3 nobugsonme June 13, 2008 at 9:19 am

Hi Winston,

I get what you’re saying, and understand Tyvek suits may not be a solution for normal home health workers.

I think your idea:

I think some agency or entrepreneur should develop a bonded central BB response team who can prep these locations for treatment and provide for the required logistics.

… is a great one.

I hope the agencies begin to understand that they are at risk even when they do not see bed bugs easily and also when the client is not aware they have them. This still seems to be like the most “dangerous” situation for them, since they might not take precautions in the absence of obvious signs, even if taught to do so.


I hear you.

Of course, it is easier for home visitors to take home bed bugs than to contract AIDS (and the consequences are not comparable).

But it still seems like something should be worked out. If special teams can provide support with prep and treatment, as Winston suggests, it seems like there could be special nursing teams for such circumstances– perhaps provided with extra training, and paid extra, and given facilities to transition from work to home, so they are less likely to bring the problem home.

I realize this would not mean the regular nurses were “safe” (per my comments to Winston above), but it would at least mean clients were not left high and dry.

I think your experience — I believe you’ve told us before this was an office visit and not a health practitioner coming to your home — is a very problematic one. Health workers (in their own office settings) need to find ways of minimizing the spread of bed bugs. But turning clients away isn’t the solution.

4 Winston O. Buggy June 13, 2008 at 9:52 am

One of the Adult agencies was trying to set it up but ran into budget and some administrative issues. Perhaps they will try again because they realize the need.

5 Visiting Nurse August 5, 2008 at 8:06 pm


I am sorry that you were hurt when your health professional did not want to continue to visit you due to bed bugs. However, you cannot take that personally. As a home visitor, I not only have to think about the health and well-being of my client but also myself. I am not going to put myself in a position to bring home bed bugs if I don’t have to. I will not do my job well if I am thinking about if a bug is crawling into my bag or not.
Also, to equate AIDS with beg bugs is ignorant. If I had to visit an AIDS patient, I wouldn’t be worried about getting the disease myself just by being in the house. However, as with bed bugs, I can be in the home for 5 mins and bring home a bed bug.
Health care professionals are there to help people but we have lives too and we need to protect ourselves also in the process. For example, if I approach a house and there’s a vicious looking dog that is barking and snarling at me and preventing me from getting to the front door, I won’t go in. I will choose me over the client in this case.
Sorry, if I sound rash but there are always 2 sides to the story.

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