REGINA – The Saskatchewan NDP is asking the province to properly get rid of bedbugs at local seniors housing complexes after one resident spoke out about the issue.
Adele Bryson, 80, lives in an apartment at 2121 Rose Street that she said has been crawling with bed bugs for months.
Bryson hasn’t been bitten herself, but when her family comes to visit they leave with numerous bites. Her granddaughter appears to be their favourite victim.
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“When she stays with me overnight, the next day she’s just full of bites on her arms,” said Bryson.
“There’s thousands in there, thousands! You can’t go in there without seeing one,” said daughter-in-law Karren Jackson. “You just touch the bed and you see them crawl.”
Jackson has collected dozens of the bugs in traps to prove the infestation.
“It’s quite embarrassing. Not very pleasant really,” said Bryson.
By July the situation became so bad the senior felt she needed to leave her home, so she moved in with a friend.
Jim Gusul took Bryson in, but admits he’s worried about the bed bugs transferring to his home from hers.
“I won’t go in there. I don’t want her to go in there either. I don’t want to take the chance of coming back to my place with one or two or five in the cuff of my pants,” he said.
Exterminators are scheduled to treat Adele’s apartment, one on each side, as well as on top and bottom. But Bryson’s family doesn’t think that goes far enough in addressing the bigger problem.
They’ve put traps in other seniors’ units further down the hall and found bed bugs there too.
Bryson’s family is concerned that unless the whole building, including common rooms, is treated for bedbugs that the money will be wasted because the bed bugs could return.
“I just want my mom to be safe and comfortable,” said Bryson’s son, Jim Bryson.
“She’s on a small pension and doesn’t have the ability to take everything she owns to a dry cleaner or to move her own furniture. What about all the seniors in that building that don’t have family that can help? Those seniors will suffer, and the bugs from their suites will come right back into mom’s suite making the cost, the effort and displacement of mom all for nothing.”
The NDP is also calling for the entire building to be treated for pests.
“Families are approaching [us] to describe horrible bedbug infestations in seniors housing, and have a real struggle getting the government to properly treat the problem,” said NDP Housing critic David Forbes. “Do it once, so you’re not constantly coming back and having those expenses.”
But Saskatchewan Housing says that’s not reasonable, or necessary.
“It really isn’t practical to treat that many units at any given time,” said Dianne Baird, the executive director of the housing network.
She added the cost for a single treatment is around $1500 and so far this year, Saskatchewan Housing has spent over $700,000 on bed bugs.
She said officials were only recently made aware of Bryson’s issues.
“When an incident is reported, the housing authority jumps on it very quickly so the bed bugs are contained within a particular suite and do not spread,” said Baird.
Before the extermination happens, the home needs to be prepared, and furniture and clothing moved out.
Bryson’s son Jim Bryson, is worried about how other seniors could do that without the assistance of family or friends: “If I wasn’t here, in the city, to do this for my mom – there’s so many seniors that can’t get this done.”
“It’s not like they’re expecting an 80-year-old to do that. But they do reach out to the family and hope they help their family prepare the unit for treatment,” said Baird.
But Saskatchewan Housing said they would never leave anyone in a lurch. They will help individuals who do not have family to assist in cleaning their suites out.
According to the NDP, the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation has had its maintenance budget cut to $48.3 million in 2014 from a peak of $93.4 million in 2011.