Bat colony forces NC hospital to send patients elsewhere

ROCKINGHAM, NC (WBTV) - An invasion of bats at Richmond Memorial Hospital has forced it to move patients to other hospitals, and suspend inpatient care.

The hospital has been trying to get rid of a bat colony that has taken up residence inside the walls at the hospital for some time, but decided on Friday to move 14 inpatients to other hospitals, and postpone outpatient procedures.

Hospital staff and the Richmond County health department inspected the entire facility on Friday and found no evidence of bat guano in the interior of the hospital. Because no evidence of the bats was found where people have been, the health department said there was no risk to the public.

Even so, the hospital decided to close until they could figure out a way to get rid of the bats for good. "Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of our patients, families, visitors, and employees," says Gretchen Kelly, FirstHealth public relations director. "We are making every effort to accommodate all those affected by this event."

The hospital emergency department remains open to patients who come in on their own, but  patients being transported by ambulances will be taken directly to another area hospital.

Some of the staff scheduled to work this weekend are being offered shifts at a hospital owned by the same company in Pinehurst.

A hospital spokesman told WBTV they would update the situation throughout the weekend, and let people know when the hospital was able to go back to a normal schedule.

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