Bedbug sufferers face stigma from society and heath providers

Matthew Coutts
National Affairs Reporter
Daily Brew
Staff at Manitoba's summer camps are trained to inspect and detect bedbugs, according to the Manitoba Camping Association. In some cases, staff can also exterminate the pests.

They are pesky, they are infuriating and, there is no getting around it, they come with a heaping helping of public disgust and rejection.

Canadians are more frequently finding themselves in a battle with bedbugs. The lecherous affliction is the subject of civic task forces, provincial planning and expensive, personal battles.

Friends shy away from those targeted by the blood-sucking mini-monsters. Some of us get skeeved out by the mere thought of the pest. Others lose sleep fearing they will infest our homes next.

What does all this have in common? All of those overreactions do not come at the hands of health professionals. Or at least, one would hope.

[ Related: Bedbugs found in downtown Vancouver courthouse ]

The National Post reports that those living in infested homes can get short-shrift from healthcare providers as well.

Examples cited by the newspaper include one cancer patient who was refused a diagnostic scan because of their infested home. Another procedure for a kidney-disease patient was also cancelled.

Physiotherapist, and professor, Maude Laliberté told the National Post that patients affected by bedbugs are occasionally treated like pariahs by healthcare professionals, likening it to the early days of AIDS.

She told the Post:

I have seen many situations where [infested] patients were not treated as fairly as other patients — they were discharged faster, they were staying longer on the waiting lists. It’s a real problem.

It's not ideal, and most of the afflicted receive the treatment they need. But it is an issue hospitals and healthcare providers need to address.

[ Related: Libraries under attack from bedbugs, urine-wielding vandal ]

The Post reports that some health workers in Manitoba and Ontario, where treating patients with bedbugs is required, are negotiating for provisions that will protect them if the bugs are passed on.

The key is that, while they are a wholly terror, most experts say bedbugs do not transmit diseases. It is an issue that does not just affect low-income homes, dirty people or those prone to disaster.

There is a way for the healthcare system, and society in general, to remain properly cautious about bedbugs without treating those afflicted by the pests like pariahs.

Or damned zombies.