Mice infestation a growing concern for patients at Edmonton mental hospital

“It’s a bad infestation that has been like this for a number of years, actually. It’s only gotten worse”

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Patients at an Edmonton mental hospital say their unit has been overrun with mice — a recurring issue at the aging facility.

Chando Jackson and Brandon Ross, who are confined to the Helen Hunley Forensic Pavilion at Alberta Hospital Edmonton, say the infestation has become more noticeable as temperatures have cooled, driving mice from nearby fields into the facility in the city’s northeast.

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“It’s a bad infestation that has been like this for a number of years, actually,” said Jackson, who has been under the care of doctors after being found not criminally responsible for a 2012 assault in St. Paul. “It’s only gotten worse.”

“There’s like mouse droppings everywhere. And mice are nocturnal animals, they’re most busy at night. When we’re up at night watching movies and stuff, they’re running around from room to room. They climb everywhere.”

Alberta Health Services said it is aware of the problem.

“AHS is working to address the issue as soon as possible,” spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in an email. “This includes but is not limited to repairing doors, windows and sealing off other potential entry points, issuing sealable containers to patients for food storage, educating staff about rodent behaviour, and deep cleaning areas where sightings have been reported.”

A pest control company is now on site five days a week, he added.

“We encourage patients and staff to continue to report any pest sightings so that we’re able to act quickly to resolve the issue.”

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The state of Alberta Hospital Edmonton, one of the largest mental health care facilities in the Edmonton area, has been an issue for decades. The facility has had issues with mice, faulty elevators and heating and cooling issues.

Alberta Hospital
Photos taken in September 2023 of mice droppings and traps at Alberta Hospital Edmonton, the region’s forensic mental hospital. Alberta Health Services said it is taking steps to control the infestation, which one patient said is the worst he’s seen. Photo by Supplied Photo
Helen Hunley
The Helen Hunley Forensic Pavilion at Alberta Hospital Edmonton in Edmonton Ab on Thursday Feb 3, 2011. Photo by File photo /Postmedia

The campus at Fort Road and 174 Avenue was originally built to help with the convalescence of traumatized First World War veterans. It has since grown to accommodate out-patient treatment and, in addition to the NCR patients, contains a large number of the region’s adult and youth acute care psychiatric beds.

In 2015, Alberta Infrastructure told Postmedia the hospital campus’s 11 main buildings needed at least $71 million in basic infrastructure maintenance by 2018.

Ross, also an NCR patient, says he has found mice droppings on dishes and the unit stove, as well as on clean sheets, towels and linens. He said he has submitted complaints to the minister of health and AHS because he believes efforts to control the outbreak have been insufficient.

Both he and Jackson said some of their freedoms have been curtailed as a result of the infestation.

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“They’re actually making our privileges harder to get because of this problem, which isn’t our (fault),” said Jackson.

“It’s been a real detriment on our mental health. I’ve been finding it pretty hard to adjust.”

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Both men insist that, despite being found NCR, they were not in fact mentally ill at the time of their offences. Jackson appealed unsuccessfully in 2016 and says he needs substance abuse treatment, not psychiatric care, while Ross — who was found NCR for uttering threats — is also challenging that finding, as well as a 2022 decision of the Alberta Review Board finding he must remain confined to hospital.

Research has shown people deemed NCR frequently spend longer under the authority of provincial review boards than if they had been criminally convicted.

Postmedia reached out to Alberta Health about plans for the Alberta Hospital facility but did not hear back by press time.

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