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Hostel ordered to get rid of bed bugs, backpacker can't walk

HOSPITALISED: British backpacker Seonaid Dear has been admitted to Bundaberg Hospital after losing feeling in her leg and feet as a result of the severe bed bug bites suffered from her stay at Bundaberg Backpackers.
HOSPITALISED: British backpacker Seonaid Dear has been admitted to Bundaberg Hospital after losing feeling in her leg and feet as a result of the severe bed bug bites suffered from her stay at Bundaberg Backpackers. Max Fleet BUNBUG

A BUNDABERG backpacker hostel has been given 24 hours to clean up a cockroach and bed bug infestation.

Bundaberg Regional Council health and regulatory services spokesman Wayne Honor said council environmental health officers visited Bundaberg Backpackers on Friday in response to complaints from members of the public relating to bites and allegations of bed bugs.

"The inspection revealed the presence of bed bugs and cockroaches," he said.

"The officers returned to Bundaberg Backpackers yesterday and issued a compliance notice giving the owner 24 hours to advise council of actions being undertaken to immediately address the issue.

"The notice also requires the owner to develop a strategy for undertaking control measures into the future."

English backpacker Seonaid Dear, keen to flee Bundaberg after a severe case of bed bugs bites, is still in Bundaberg Hospital.

The 20-year-old had sought a second round of treatment for the bites on her ankle that became infected, and was advised against flying and was admitted to Bundaberg Hospital, were she remains.

"I was having trouble walking but now I can't walk at all," she said.

"My foot is blue and I can only feel my big toe but none of my little ones.

"The doctor is going to give me an injection into my tummy because they are worried about blood clots."

Miss Dear, who was bitten by bed bugs while staying at the Bundaberg Backpackers, is now is a difficult position after her airline told her she had lost the flight and the money she'd paid to fly to Cairns.

"They said I contacted them too late, but I'm going to keep calling and see what happens," she said.

But even if Miss Dear is reimbursed, she is in no state to work and doesn't know what to do.

"At the moment I have just enough money to get home," she said.

"If I have to stay here for a while I won't even have enough money to get home."

Miss Dear said while she would like the hostel to compensate her, at the very least she wants to see the hostel address the issue so no one else has to share her experience.

A spokeswoman for Bundaberg Backpackers said it was a major priority for all accommodation providers, including itself, to ensure levels of hygiene were maintained and that challenge was always made more difficult when travellers have previously stayed in low standards of accommodation, including tents and cars.

"Our business has always prevented hygiene becoming an issue by having appropriate procedures in place (but) unfortunately hygiene becomes difficult to manage when procedures are not followed," the spokeswoman said.

"One of the travellers who took her story to the paper only sought medical assistance after we had been urging her to do so for some time.

"She had been urged to seek medical assistance because no underlying hygiene issue could be identified. It was thought she most probably was experiencing an allergic reaction to something she had encountered through her work.

"The brother of Seonaid Dear, Benjamin, has gladly remained a resident at our business."

But Miss Dear said her brother continued to stay only because he had paid upfront and didn't have the money to go anywhere else.

Bundaberg Hospital has arranged for Miss Dear to stay in subsidised accommodation at Rotary Lodge once she is discharged.

Topics:  backpacking, bundaberg



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