Woman Turned Away From Hospital Because Of Bed Bugs

The Denver Channel
Friday, May 27, 2011

An Aurora woman said she was turned away by a doctor for a pain injection because her home is infested with bed bugs.

Christine Lewis was set for a spinal injection at the Medical Center of Aurora South. She said everything was going fine until a nurse asked her about the bug bites that covered her arms.

"I told her I had bed bug bites. They were bed bug bites," Lewis said.

Lewis said she was denied the injection and treatment. She said her doctor showed her the door.

"He made the comment, he's like, it could be in your hair, it could be in your clothes and we can't have you bring that into our operating room," Lewis said.

7NEWS wanted to know if a bed bug infestation should stand in the way of medical treatment.

Statewide, we found no protocol that called for turning patients away.

7NEWS discovered the doctor at the Medical Center of Aurora did not follow protocol for Health One facilities, but Health One stopped short of telling us what that protocol is.

So we checked with other health care providers, not involved with Lewis' case.

"Would your health centers refuse treatment to someone who was coming from a home infested with bed bugs?" we asked. "No," said Peggy SaBelle, RN.

SaBelle is the Regional Infection Prevention and Control Director for Kaiser Permanente Colorado. She said Kaiser Permanente's protocol starts with the first sign of a bed bug.

Infection control is notified, and staff searches for parasites and the patient who may be carrying them. Once the carrier is found, they are isolated, counseled and treated.

The patient is advised to have a licensed pest control company inspect and treat their home. If the home is still infested, the patient is encouraged to store a set of clothes for medical appointments in a sealed plastic bag. Those clothes should be sealed immediately after they are washed and dried on high heat.

If the patient refuses to comply, Kaiser Permanente staff is advised to discuss home care services with the member.

Immediately after the patient leaves any surfaces they came in contact with are cleaned. After hours, pest control is called in for treatment.

"We have a very aggressive plan and it has been very effective," said SaBelle.

"How important was it to come up with this plan?" we asked.

"I think it was very important because this is going to be a problem. If clinics and hospitals haven't seen it yet, they will," said SaBelle.