The story of a decorated war veteran being chewed by mice in an Australian nursing home has been much in the news over the last few days, usually with comments about how disgraceful the lack of care must have been, or how this demonstrates systemic failures in the health system.
I am not so sure. There is nothing in the news reports to indicate that this had happened before, or that staff were negligent in any way. But if staff were not negligent, what happened?
At the moment we have a minor mouse plague on Kangaroo Island. We have been catching up to six mice per night inside the house. That does not include mice caught by our two cats, or equally enthusiastic small terrier.
The mice are quick and bold. Two nights ago one strolled across my desk as I was typing. I chatted to it briefly, explaining that its presence was not especially welcome, then went and got a trap and put it next to a pile of papers. A few minutes later, snap, and it was contemplating the mousy version of eternity.
But this is nothing compared to the mouse plagues we experienced in Western Queensland.
Like most people I made bucket traps. This is a ramp leading up to a bottle suspended over a bucket of water. You smear the ramp and bottle with peanut butter (by far the best bait for any rodent trap). The mice follow the scent out onto the bottle and slip into the water where they drown. I had two such traps and would regularly catch twenty in each per night.
This video, taken in Queensland near Dalby where the nursing home is, shows just how fast and how numerous the mice can be (and a warning, some people might this video disturbing):
People in Western Queensland are aware of the mouse problem (how could they not be!), and health services are normally careful to ensure buildings are sprayed, baits laid, etc.
If anyone is to blame for that incident, it is not the nursing staff, but the environmentalists and bureaucrats who demanded that no sprays be used.
On the other hand, this really was neglect, of the most vile and uncaring kind:
A Melbourne woman allowed her mother to be eaten alive by maggots and left her dying on a floor surrounded by her own waste, a court has heard.
Kateryna Pyrczak’s St Albans house allegedly smelt like a “rotting corpse” when she was discovered by paramedics lying on her kitchen floor with gangrenous legs on November 10 last year.
Police allege the 72-year-old’s right leg was gangrenous from knee to foot and was being eaten by maggots and her body was covered in ulcers. Ms Pyrczak was rushed to the Western General Hospital but died from multiple organ failure and septicemia later that night.