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'Significant' HSE staffing problems caused delays dealing with Dublin rat infestations

All vacant posts have now been approved for filling, the Health Minister has said.

Image: Shutterstock/Erni

‘SIGNIFICANT’ STAFF SHORTAGES at the HSE’s Pest Control Service in south Dublin led to delays dealing with reports of infestations in August of this year, Health Minister Simon Harris has confirmed.

Rat infestations in a number of areas around the city made the headlines over the summer – with residents of Raheen Park in Ballyfermot amongst the many callers to the local council, reporting sightings of the rodents.

Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South-West Sean Crowe said there had been an increase in problems with rats in his constituency during the summer, and he observed back in August that “massive rodents are swarming the area” in Ballyfermot.

There had been problems in the nearby suburb of Clondalkin too earlier in the year, Crowe said.

Letter 

In a letter to the Dublin TD Health Minister Simon Harris said that the HSE Pest Control Service on the Southside of Dublin had had “a significant reduction in available staff in recent months due to retirements and resignations and this situation was compounded during the holiday period”.

The letter added:

This current pressure on resources has in turn resulted in some delays in the provision of treatment services for rat infestations in August.

All vacant posts have now been approved for filling, Harris said – pointing out that the “HSE is endeavouring to expedite” the permanent filling of the vacancies as quickly as possible. They may be filled temporarily in the meantime, he said.

Harris’s letter pointed out that – according to the Rats and Mice Destruction Act 1919 – it is the legal responsibility of the owner/occupier of the land to eradicate pests, including on land owned or managed by local authorities and other State agencies or departments.

The HSE Pest Control Service does not therefore have statutory responsibility to treat such infestation but instead acts as a support service where possible.

 

Tweet by @Liveline Source: Liveline/Twitter

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Crowe said he was “a bit surprised” the HSE team did not have ultimate responsibility for dealing with infestations, and “maybe that’s part of the problem and the lack of urgency”.

“The worry I have is that this staff shortage seems to have been allowed drift and drift along,” the TD  said.

“While I of course welcome the fact that the jobs are now going to be filled, there is clearly a public health element to all this.

“In my experience of dealing with problems like this during my years as a public representative, it’s quite clear that when someone has a problem with a rat infestation it is an immediate issue and they want them urgently removed, not weeks or months later.

There was clearly no urgency to fill these positions and the fact that they are only now considering all options will hardly reassure anyone.

Responding to reports of problems dealing with infestations back in August, the HSE said its pest control service had dealt with  almost 2,000 complaints in the first six months of the year.

“This service is provided within limited resources and all complaints received are assessed and prioritised accordingly,” a HSE spokesperson said.

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