THE kitchen and bedrooms of a Crowhurst care home showed clear evidence of a rat infestation, a court heard on Monday.
Almost £30,000 of fines were issued by Hastings magistrates after hearing how The Firs care home, in Old Forewood Lane, had become overrun with the vermin.
Environmental Health officers from Rother District Council inspected the care home in November last year and discovered evidence of rats throughout the property – including copious amounts of droppings, bite marks and rat holes.
The kitchen was closed under an emergency order for ten days while cleaning was carried out and residents moved to unaffected rooms.
On Monday, magistrates fined the company which owns the care home, Miyano Care Services Ltd, a total of £24,080.
Company director and care home chef Dan Dethridge, who pleaded guilty to the charges, was personally fined £4,015.
Magistrates heard how officers found plastic sacks of rotting food in the bushes of the home’s driveway, with rat holes underneath, and a garden full of discarded furniture.
The official waste compound was filled with clinical waste bags, with one bin having evidence of rat gnawings.
Environmental Health officers found the building to be in poor repair, with multiple points of access for rats.
A disused shed behind the main building was found to be heavily infested with the animals.
The attic rooms too were infested and several bedrooms showed evidence of rat activity – including droppings, rat holes in the skirting boards and chewed carpets.
Of the 17 bedrooms on the first floor, officers found clear evidence of rat activity in nine.
On the ground floor there were clear signs of rat activity in three bedrooms of out seven.
Droppings were found in the laundry and in the adjoining cupboard.
Behind and beneath the fridge and freezer in the kitchen, officers found copious rat droppings, alongside left-over food.
Richard Parker-Harding, Rother District Council head of Environmental Health, said: “There were dog biscuits, onions, sweets and the remains of a packet of shortbread fingers.
“It was clear that the rats regularly visited the kitchen to obtain food and used this sheltered area, behind the fridge, to store their foods.
“In time they would return to eat their bounty.
“This rat infestation began in the garden of the care home, attracted by the rotting food and given shelter in the discarded furniture.
“When the weather became cold, the rats found many ways into the home itself and established themselves in the attic rooms.
“From here they gained access to the fabric of the building living in the wall cavities and sub floors.
“They gnawed their way out of the wall cavities into bedrooms through the skirting boards.
“They found copious food throughout the home and took it to their shelter behind the fridge and freezer in the kitchen.”
He added: “Rats carry many diseases, including Salmonella, Camplyobacter and Leptospirosis.
“These harmful bacteria would have been carried on their feet, bodies and tails and deposited on every surface they touched.
“Their urine and faeces were deposited throughout the care home.
“This situation posed a health risk to everyone in contact with The Firs - the employees, contractors, visitors, but most of all the residents.”
In passing sentence, magistrates told Dethridge that this was an extremely serious situation, not least because some of his residents were suffering from dementia and wouldn’t know what a rat was or the dangers they posed.