Hospital building overrun by rats

GALVESTON, TX Employees on the fourth floor of the Rebecca Sealy Hospital are dealing with an extra bit of stress these days. As employee Nida Caidi found out firsthand, you never know when you might encounter a rat.

She recalled, "We were in that cubicle straight ahead. The poor little thing was smushed together. There's a serious problem."

Officials at UTMB first heard about the increased rat sightings inside Rebecca Sealy a few weeks ago. Since then, they've installed all kinds of glue pads and snapping traps on every floor and even outside. They're quick to point out no patients are treated in that building.

"The problem with the rodents has been isolated to the buildings that were not occupied," explained UTMB Interim COO David Marshall. "It's not in our patient care areas or food preparation areas at all."

But the biggest source of the problem appears to be the third floor. It's virtually unchanged since the day employees evacuated for Hurricane Ike a year ago. Because the area is unoccupied, it's become a haven for rats looking for a buffet of leftovers.

"Some are small, some are big, various colors," said employee Kimberly Walsh.

So far, 17 rats and mice have been trapped in the last month. But the numbers are going down. Because of the effort to root out the rodent problem, only one rat has been found this week. But for Nida that's still one too many.

She said, "We try not to let that distract us. Thankfully, I haven't had anything crawl underneath my desk or on my toes."

Officials aren't quite sure what caused the infestation. Some speculate it may be the cooler weather, others theorize it may be work being done on campus.

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