Honolulu ambulances are frequently infested with bedbugs - and the problem is only getting worse.
To keep the pests under control in emergency vehicles, the city is expected to spend $25,200 over the next fiscal year, which begins July 1 - a nearly 50 percent increase from its bedbug budget over the current fiscal year.
"It is going to go into good use and it's going to keep ambulances in service, which will lead to lives saved," said EMS spokeswoman Shayne Enright to Hawaii's ABC affiliate KITV ( http://www.kitv.com/news/paramedics-encountering-more-bed-bugs/25336868).
Ambulances that have bedbugs are taken out of commission for as long as three hours while the vehicle is cleaned. Replacement ambulances are brought in, but there still is a potential risk to patients, Enright said.
"That's taking one of our 20 ambulances out of the community," she said. "Somebody nearby could be having a heart attack and that does jeopardize their care."
Paramedics have advanced tools at their disposal to avoid bed bugs, including a spray to kill them on contact, checking in with a database of known infestations, a plastic covering that keeps bedbugs from leaving patients' clothing, and a special suit that patients or paramedics can wear to keep the bedbugs from spreading.
However, paramedics do all they can to keep bedbugs out of their rigs. Every ambulance carries a spray that kills bedbugs on contact, a plastic bag to place around patients and a Tyvek suit that can be worn by patients or paramedics. They're also trained to notice the signs of an infestation.
Still, they believe they can do more, which is why they'll start handing out informative pamphlets to patients with bedbugs by the end of the month.
Honolulu does not have a major bedbug problem overall, ranking 45 out of 50 in an Orkin Pest Control list of the top cities with bedbug problems.