HSE West has come under fire for putting down local feral cats, which they identified as the source of a recent flea outbreak at University Hospital Galway.
The hospital revealed last week that a number of staff based in the Outpatient Department had been bitten by fleas in recent weeks and subsequently claimed the bites were caused by cat fleas.
The cats are being removed from the hospital grounds by a pest control company and are being brought to a vet to be humanely put down or re-housed if possible.
A HSE West spokesperson said the hospital has a responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of patients and staff at all times.
“We are taking all appropriate measures to address the problem of fleas and we will continue to do so until the matter is fully addressed. We have also liaised with the HSE Environmental Health and Public Health Departments in relation to this matter,” she said.
However, the hospital has been widely criticised by animal lovers for euthanising the cats and a spokesperson for Galway Cat Rescue yesterday said that it was “almost impossible” that the cats were responsible for the outbreak.
“Feral cats are, by their nature, very shy animals and stay away from human beings and buildings as much as possible. In our opinion, it is far more likely that one of the patients brought these fleas into the hospital,’ said the spokesperson.
“The culling of feral cats is not only highly inhumane but also not very effective. Within a short period of time, new feral cats move into the now empty niche, but, before this happens, the hospital will have a massive rodent problem.”
The organisation said the only proven method of dealing with feral cats was to trap, neuter and return, adding that despite many attempts to contact UHG management to discuss the problem, “nobody seemed willing to discuss the current situation”.