Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pests in hospitals, and the reporting of medical science

I was interested to hear (and see) the BBC Breakfast News coverage of the figures obtained by the Conservative Party about the number of instances of pests in hospitals. I found myself wondering: did the figures count calls to the pest controllers, or actual pests found? There were 20000 incidents of "pest infestation" (according to the Guardian's report) in the period starting January 2006. I wonder how many hospitals there are in England (or wherever the figures apply to) - if there are 1000 hospitals, and the figures cover 2 years, then this is 10 instances of pests (or calls to the pest squad) per year per hospital. 20000 sounds shocking - 10 per hospital sounds different. The Guardian does point out that there were hospitals that called pest controllers 50 times in the period.

Of course, rats in the maternity ward is no joke, but the way things like this are portrayed is very interesting.

Channel 4 has an interesting deconstruction of this issue, which raises some other interesting things about the figures - the fact that hospital's estates includes outdoors as well as buildings, and therefore that foxes, dead pigeons, and so on will occur and need to be dealt with, and the mismatch between these figures and the ratings of the Healthcare Commission, for two.

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