Senior living center battles bed bugs after WMBF Investigation

GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) - The owner of the assisted living facility battling a bed bug problem is not only speaking with WMBF News Anchor Heather Biance, she gave Heather a chance to scope out the facility herself.

When our story aired last Thursday we told you the owner of Oasis Residential Home hadn't had a professional exterminator out at the facility, but that's changed since our last visit.

"It's possible that it could be in most of the rooms, just in group living, it's hard to contain," explains Oasis Residential Home Administrator Mazie Graham.

Battling bed bugs is becoming a full-time job for her.

Graham explains, "It's actually been about a year, but it wasn't a big problem. It'd be one or two bed bugs here or there."

Since then, just when she thinks she has it under control, they resurface.

Graham says three months ago, she changed her tactic from treating whenever it became a problem to an aggressive plan: from using commercial grade chemicals, steaming the furniture, bombing the facility and putting plastic covers on the beds, this is now the drill twice a week.

"We even covered up the zippers on the plastic covers on the beds, because they say they can get in that way," Graham says.

Oasis came under scrutiny last week when a former employee and someone who was contracted to clean the floors came forward, disgusted with the living and work conditions.

"With me working night shift from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., so I was getting bit also by bed bugs," explains former Oasis employee, Rochelle Greene.

Will Smith, a former cleaning crew member, says, "I'd say all the rooms are infected and all the brown couches in the day area. Most anything in there has bed bugs."

He showed a pile of his clothes and furniture, which is now trash. "This is all bed bug ridden," he explains.

Graham says they must have not followed her strict instructions to all employees to spray and disrobe before going in their house, all in an effort to keep the bed bugs from transferring to their homes. A problem Smith and Greene are both now dealing with.

On Friday, Heather got to see an empty patient's room, selected at random, -- with her own eyes.

Heather Biance asks, "Do you mind lifting this mattress?

"See, nothing," Graham said. "There's some residual powder there but all white sheets."

"It's devastating to me to have these things in my facility that I've had for 14 years and not had any problems," Graham said.

Nothing was visible from the areas we visited.

As for the patients, Heather Biance asked Graham if there was a notification sent out to any loved ones of these patients at least alerting them to the problem. She says she didn't send a letter, but if family came to visit she would tell them in person.

As previously reported, DHEC has absolutely no power to shut down a business because of bed bugs because it's not considered a public health issue.

So that's why it's so important that if you have a loved one in an assisted living facility, make sure you are asking about their living conditions.

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.