Wasp nest is no jest
for Kona hospital

The winged invaders force
the closure of an operating room

KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii >> Wasps in the Kona Community Hospital operating room are bad medicine. Since Dec. 24, Operating Room No. 3 has been closed while the hospital looks for a cure, said assistant administrator Glenn Sparks.

Meanwhile, the wasps are the ones getting stung by the publicity.

For the record, these are paper wasps, Sparks said, so called because they use wood particles and spit to make paper nests.

"These paper wasps are not superaggressive. In fact, they try their best to hide," Sparks said.

Their favorite food is spiders, he said. People are way too big for them to want to tangle with.

But people just don't feel warm and cuddly about wasps, especially professional health care workers in an operating room with a patient under anesthesia.

About a week ago, a surgeon swatted one flying around his patient, Sparks said. The wasp might be described as the patient one, since it landed, stunned, on the sleeping patient's forehead but still did not sting.

When an anesthesiologist pressed some tape onto the groggy wasp to remove it, the wasp finally had enough and jabbed the sleeping patient, Sparks said.

Informed about the incident after he woke up, the patient answered that there was no problem, since he was asleep.

The problem has been bugging the operating room since April, but it has been low level, with eight wasps seen on the worst day recently and another report that no wasps at all were seen for 11 days.

Workers discovered that the wasps were living in a cluttered 5,000-square-foot crawl space above the operating room and several others rooms, entering the operating room through spaces around fluorescent light fixtures, Sparks said.

The insects got into the crawl space through an expansion joint, open to the outdoors, that connected a new part of the building with the old. That has now been plugged.

The hospital's current contract with an exterminator does not cover wasps, and pumping toxic chemicals into part of the hospital would pose a far worse problem than wasps. Sparks is meeting with another extermination company that says it does not use toxic chemicals.

In the meantime, the hospital has drafted a wasp policy for Operating Room 3, Sparks said.

It tells medical personnel to alert other staff when a wasp is sighted, cover up any open wound of a patient in surgery and then "knock them down, stomp them, crush them," Spark said.


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