‘Buckets’ of Rats, Roaches, Feces Found in Tampa VA Hospital – Roaches on Food Trays

Rat at Haley VA Hospital TB Times
Haley Veterans Hospital Official Photo
Rat photo via The Tampa Bay Times

The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida has roach and rodent infestations on such a widespread scale that “buckets” of rats, roaches and feces were removed from the canteen kitchen ceiling by contractors in recent months.

Last week three dead rats fell from the ceiling in the main hospital kitchen.


Roaches are being found on the food trays served to veterans at the hospital.

The Tampa Bay Times reported hospital spokeswoman Karen Collins as saying that the dead rats found in the kitchen was a sign extermination efforts were succeeding.

“”It’s important to remember that the rodents found deceased means our efforts are working,” Collins said in an email statement to the Times.”

There was no mention that the hospital kitchen had been shut down by health inspectors.

The Times reported on an internal email from Miriam Ruisz, the hospital’s Infection Prevention Coordinator, to the ‘Enviro Team’ sent last Thursday about the infestation:

“I was notified today (and received pictures of) 3 large dead rats that fell through the kitchen ceiling last night. The demolition contractor double bagged all of the debris and removed it from the site at the end of the shift. I have also been made aware that there is a major roach problem in the kitchen and that some roaches have been found on patients’ trays. I was told that 2 months ago when FMS replaced the Canteen kitchen ceiling they filled “multiple buckets with roaches, dead rats, and feces”.

“Please let me know if there is an ongoing problem with this infestation and what is being done about it? Obviously if someone sent me the pictures, we could possibly end up on the news, not to mention, risk patient safety (frownie face emoticon). Thank you.”

The Times reported the VA hospital awarded a minority firm with no professed experience in pest control with a contract two weeks ago to clean up the kitchen infestation:

“Haley then hired Visions Inc. on June 10 to provide pest control services at the hospital’s kitchen areas, Collins said
“VA documents show that Visions — a Brooklyn Park, Minn., company — won a $36,500 contract to provide pest control services over the next year. The contract has options for an additional four years.

“Visions describes itself on a company website as the “largest, certified Native American-owned combination advertising agency and printing company in the United States.”

“Its website does not say anything about the company offering pest control services either in Minnesota or Florida.

“Visions officials could not be reached to comment. Collins did not respond when asked about the company’s pest control expertise.”

WINK-TV has been reporting on unsanitary conditions at the Haley Veterans’ Hospital for years:

“It goes right back to what we found a few years ago, and subsequently since then when we go back with other visits, it’s dirty,” said Dan Ashby.

“Ashby is the father of Afghanistan veteran Corey Kent, who was a patient at the VA hospital.

“In 2012, Ashby along with WINK News documented mold in the rooms, and other unsanitary conditions at the hospital.”

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida) told Tampa’s BayNews 9, “”This is ridiculous. We’ve got a long way to go on the VA.”

The Times reported Haley’s hospital kitchen is infested from above and below:

“In an email to Ruisz and other hospital officials Thursday, Ellen Tolson, who works in Haley nutrition services, said the hospital had hired new pest control contractors who “treated for roaches” on June 10. Tolson said they were going to be back at the facility Thursday night after the latest reports of problems.”

…”As for the bigger pests, Tolson wrote in the email, the three dead rats and a dead mouse were “all found in the ceiling above our ingredient control room” in the main hospital kitchen.

“Tolson said she asked employees who work on Haley’s ceiling fire sprinklers about “rodent issues” in the main kitchen. They reported seeing, she said, live rats inside the traps.

“”They told me, while working in the kitchen since June 4, they have found multiple rodent traps in our ceiling, and they also told me that they have seen ‘eyes’ looking back at them when up in the ceiling in the corner of the kitchen looking back toward the vending area,” Tolson said.

“The basement crawl space under the kitchen appears to be filthy and strewn with bugs and debris, according to photos of the area obtained by the Times that were taken in December by VA contractors.

“Haley safety and infection control officials warned VA employees in late 2014 via email that anyone entering this basement area should wear gloves, a full-face respirator and a full-body protective suit.”

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